Dragan Djilas – engineer in politics

Dragan Djilas was much better at managing the Serbian Basketball Federation than he did the Democratic Party which implies that he understands basketball better than he does politics.

However, the former leader of anti-Milosevic student protests, and one of the founders and editors of Radio B92, was a goalkeeper in his youth. He played for a football club in the Belgrade league. Back then, he was a young, poor, rebellious student who was a real attraction on football fields in the suburbia.

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Milosevic’s supporters were perplexed by this young lad having the guts to criticize Milosevic on camera. And then, all of a sudden, this kind of Djilas disappeared. He came back to politics in 2004, as a wealthy man who ruled advertising in the region. And he who rules advertising, rules the media too. At least that’s what the late Verica Barac said in her report about media pressures and control.

Barac, who was also the Chairwoman of the Anti-Corruption Council, added this too – he who lives by media, dies by media. Especially when he is not favoured by the ruling party any more… This is something that Djilas felt on his own skin. From his meteoric rise in the Serbian political galaxy as the head of the President’s National Office during Boris Tadic’s term, to the National Investment Plan Minister and Belgrade Mayor, Djilas subsequently became a shooting star. The very media that had praised him, now tore him to bits.

As a graduate of Belgrade’s Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, he likened politics to being an engineer, bypassing the ideology. However, his ‘mathematical programme’ often stood in opposition to being rational. He would appear out of nowhere, only to disappear later. One moment he was out of the game, and the next he was appointed president of the Serbian Basketball Federation. After the successes of our national men and women’s basketball teams, he faded into anonymity again. Now, he is the only hope that the opposition has for his old position of the Belgrade mayor.

While hoping to become mayor yet again, apart from Mathematics, Djilas will have to use alchemy this time around. As a head of the Democratic Party, he expelled Jeremic from the party while Jeremic was still the President of the UN General Assembly. Now, tables have turned and he needs Jeremic’s support, because he is considered the ‘infrastructure’ of the democratic movement. The feelings about Djilas are mixed – some people cannot stand him, while some can picture him at the Belgrade Town Hall.

Despite everything, the Ada Bridge, that was built during his term in the office, is not a mirage, as are not free school books, financial assistance to new mothers, thirteenth pension, and free IVF treatments. The ruling coalition thinks that he accomplished all of the aforementioned by pushing Belgrade further into debt; 1.2 billion EUR, to be precise. After the plane trees in King Alexander Boulevard were cut down, the citizens of Belgrade called Djilas “the lumberjack”. That was probably easier for him to stomach than the graffiti about him, painted across the town hall. For many, he was just another tycoon. He acquired enemies exponentially, especially among his political comrades whom he is supposed to unite now. Given everything, his new political slogan could be: “I will rise, because I know when I will disappear.”

By Aleksandar Apostolovski

(Politika, 17.12.2017)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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