Sep 28, Serbian presidental Elections in Kosovo and Metohija
UNMIK police secured voting polls in the southern province of Serbia

October 3, 2002

by Fr. Sava Janjic

Kosovo Serb votes for Seselj are more indication of disappointment and dispair than of concrete political support for his retrograde policy

The confidence which the majority of Serb voters in Kosovo and Metohija entrusted to Vojislav Seselj, the leader of the Serbian Radical Party and a presidential candidate in Sunday’s elections for the president of Serbia, is highly indicative for an understanding of the present state of the Serb community in the southern UN administered province of Serbia. In the pre-election campaign Vojislav Seselj did not present any concrete, realistic program for the resolving of existing economic and political problems in the country and, except for boastful nationalist rhetoric, failed to offer a single rational and realizable proposal for the improvement of the position of the Serb people in Kosovo and Metohija. Why then did Mr. Seselj nevertheless win the majority of Serb votes? Before we attempt to give an answer to this question it is important to understand that the participation of Serb voters was lower than expected and that had all voters taken part in voting the results would not have been so discouraging. However despite this it is not hard to believe that in this case, too, Mr. Seselj would have gotten more confidence in comparison with the two democratically oriented presidential candidates, Mr. Kostunica and Mr. Labus. The number of votes won by the leader of the Radical Party, known for its extremist nationalism which lacks the base in Orthodox tradition and instead is the product of an atheistic consciousness, does not prove that the Kosovo Serbs have given their votes for the so-called Greater Serbia project and war, as Albanian commentators have concluded with malicious glee, but is more accurately a reflection of a state of deep disappointment with the policies the international community, Belgrade and Albanian leaders are implementing in Kosovo and Metohija.

The votes that went to Seselj are first and foremost an expression of bitterness and disappointment in the international community which in three years has not managed to create minimum conditions for a free and dignified life for the non-Albanian, primarily Serb, population. Even those Serbs who at first had confidence in the efforts of the international community to create a multiethnic society gradually began to lean toward harsher and less compromising positions. The responsibility for this is borne primarily by the international community which immediately following the war instead of establishing law and order in the Province permitted uncontrolled violence and repression against the Serbs and other Albanians only to later, slowed by bureaucracy and fear of conflicts with the Albanian extremists, mainly hypocritically ignore the problems of the Serb community, seeking that the mission be declared a success before the basic tenets of a democratic and free society are established.

The Kosovo Serbs are also dissatisfied with the policies of Belgrade because after the change of the regime in Belgrade in October 2000 and the departure of Slobodan Milosevic to The Hague, Belgrade still has not come up with a concrete strategy of resolving the Kosovo problem nor has it made significant steps in resolving the burning issues with which the Serb people in the Province are faced.

Finally, the Serbs are also disappointed with the Albanian leaders from whom, in all honesty, they could not expect much considering that the majority of them graduated to their ministers’ and parliamentary delegates’ seats from the ranks of the militant KLA whose leading members are directly responsible for numerous war crimes and crimes against humanity committed not only against the Serb and other non-Albanian civilian population but also against Albanians who disagreed with the discriminatory policy of an ethnically clean Kosovo. Three years after the end of the war and the arrival of the UNMIK mission and KFOR, the Kosovo Albanians have not managed to present all the citizens of Kosovo with a vision of a democratic society to be enjoyed by all citizens regardless of their ethnicity. Even the newly elected provincial president, Ibrahim Rugova, considered by the West to be a moderate politician, is behaving as though the Serbs in Kosovo do not exist. Luckily the international community is becoming increasingly aware that cheap rhetoric without concrete political responsibility and strategy cannot enjoy unlimited political and economic support of the West. The primary reason why the Kosovo Serbs decided to participate in the Serbian presidential elections was to demonstrate that they do not consider the Kosovo president and Transitional government in Pristina as their legitimate representatives.

Taking these facts into consideration it is hardly surprising that the majority of Kosovo-Metohija Serbs gave their votes to Seselj’s policy which this entire period has claimed that the international community and the Kosovo Albanians, with the silent acquiescence of democratic Belgrade will forget about the Kosovo Serbs and relegate them to the trash heap of history until they gradually disappear from this region.

In order for the Serb electoral body in the Province to reconsider more democratic options, it is necessary, first and foremost, to change the political behavior, not only in Belgrade and Pristina but first of all in the international centers of power. A justly balanced policy which will approach the Kosovo problem objectively and without the negative inertia from the pre-war period is the only way for Kosovo Serbs, as well as other moderate citizens of Kosovo and Metohija, to restore their lost confidence in the international community which through Resolution 1244 took upon itself the responsibility of replacing the policies of ethnic discrimination and persecution, not with an identical policy with different ethnic characteristics but with a new democratic society in which every citizen of Kosovo and Metohija will enjoy basic human rights and freedoms regardless of ethnic or religious affiliation. Such a policy would also open the doors to moderate political forces among the Kosovo Serbs to establish better cooperation with the international UN mission and moderate Albanian political parties within the framework of the UN Resolution 1244 and enable the isolation of extremist and nationalist-radical forces, creating the basic preconditions for the political and economic stabilization of the Province.