Serbia - Election Day

250 seats, 20 political parties, 3 favourites and a democracy that has serious problems in standing on its legs. Those are the ingredients for today’s general elections in Serbia, the first after the division from Montenegro. Among the voters also Serbians abroad and from Bosnian Republika Srpska, the region where some of 1990s ethnic cleansing worst chapters were written with Muslim blood.

Voting is expected to be split between President Boris Tadic's Democratic Party (DS), conservative Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica's Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) and alleged war criminal Vojislav Seselj's nationalist SRS.

Some small political parties are asking for a process of reconciliation with the past in order to move forward but unfortunately in Serbia conservative and nationalist ideas are still strong, so the only party that has some relevance and wants some reforms is the Democratic Party.

Belgrade looks like a cyberpunk capital, one of the cities described by Bruce Sterling in Globalhead, where the future stopped in an undefined past.

It used to be the capital of Tito’s Yugoslavia, a lively cosmopolitan European city. Yugoslavs could travel everywhere, passing through the iron curtain, then Milosevic came to power and many people in Serbia did not realize what was happening in the rest of what once was a country. War hit Serbia and Belgrade only after the horrors were perpetrated in the other regions and Belgrade suffered mainly for political repression, some economic difficulties and a few bombings – compared to what happened in Bosnia Herzegovina. Ethnic cleansing was dismissed as propaganda and many citizens believed that it was just a way to justify the killings of Serbs.

Diaspora brought the brightest young minds outside the country, in places like South Africa, USA, Western Europe. Some of them remained abroad but most are back in a country where almost everybody has a gun and knows how to use it.

Serbs know that they lost, the bloody dream of a Greater Serbia crashed against a present of poverty. They have no power anymore, and the spotlights are not on them after Slobodan Milosevic’s death. Montenegro and Kosovo do not want to be part of Serbia, nationalism is strong and the denial of the crimes committed during 1990s wars is normal, no mea culpa, no requests of forgiveness, nothing. Just a sense of emptiness for the many who were outside the country and now have to live side by side with war criminals and people who are still convinced that Serbs have to be united and rule over the Southern Slavs, no matter how.

The sense of emptiness that burns the stomach and takes life away from bright eyes, that feeling of uselessness, impotence and daily nightmare hidden behind the usual happiness and joie de vivre of Balkan people is a peculiarity of so many that have to face an uncertain present in a post punk capital.

Today Serbs will vote and democratically elect the people that will represent them in the Parliament, some Europeans will check that rules are respected.

Europe is barely concerned about what's going to happen after the elections in a country that is European, but-is-not-but-maybe-should-be-considered-as-such-but-who-knows-and...in-the-end-who-cares?

The chances of a new war seem far away, the only possible solution seems to be the democratization process towards the integration in the European Union. Nobody, though, can take away from my eyes and my skin the images of a trip in the past future, a place where space and time melted in an undefined dimension of suspended dust.

Once I arrived to Belgrade on a bus, another time I entered that city through the magic door of the almost dismissed central station. I was coming from Thessalonica, a night trip on a train that made me realize that Kusturica makes realistic movies, I was going to Timisoara but I stopped in Beograd to say hello to some friends. A song from a non suspect past, the late 1970s, was invading the sound space.

The weather was not that cold, Milosevic died a few days earlier, and the air was metallic. I walked around waiting to meet my friends and waking up from the trip. I bought a pair of sneakers and entered some art galleries full of broken dolls, blood and various horrors. Outside business as usual, happy faces and Balkan happiness, when I met my friends I forgot everything but that metallic feeling remained under my skin as well as the idea that democracy is not necessarily the option the people would democratically choose.

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