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Political will and/or law

For many issues in our society which we did not like, and which made our everyday lives, and the life of the society as a whole, much harder, we kept hearing the same absurd explanation over and over again: there is no political will. We asked ourselves the question: why do we need so many politicians and parties if they have no political will; we were unclear as to what kind of politics existed, or whether it existed at all if there was no will. We interpreted the lack of political will as the existence of negative will – the refusal to implement the law, or adopt a law in order to solve certain problems and bring order where it was needed. The lack of political will to do something is also someone’s will. Without will, nothing exists in the society, nor the society itself, because will is a necessary driving force behind human action. Needless to say, we rightfully ask the question how this will is shaped, what are its guiding principles. The answers to this question vary depending on the theoretical point. The main division lies between the standpoint which considers an individual and his subjectivity (intentions, goals, interests) as the source of will and social action, while the society is perceived as nothing more than the total of these individual wills, intentions and interests. This standpoint does not recognize the collective, that is, the society – which is deconstructed to the individual, the only entity that exists. Contrary to this nominalist standpoint is the standpoint which believes that the will of the individual is shaped by specific factors, such as the norms that we accept by socialization, laws, moral and rules; this normative life exists independently from the individual, because it precedes the individual and is the precondition for its social action. The dualism between the collectivist and individualist theories in the interpretation of the social has been overcome by a synthetic theory which considers will as the crucial element of action. However, action is shaped by the situation (circumstances), norms, beliefs and values – by everything that represents the environment, the society and culture in its broadest meaning and that precedes individual will, with which it most frequently coincides. These are selective, sedimented and generalized experiences of a set of singular, related actions of individuals, which would not exist without voluntarism, that is, will as such. If it is true that there is no will without action, because, without will, you cannot even leave your apartment to take a walk, the same applies to will shaped in the famous institutions of the system, because they, too, do not function without will, that is, without the official will which is normatively defined.

Namely, the law cannot act by itself, without being facilitated by will, just as the will is what suspends it. This is an important issue, since numerous analysts are now more and more often confronting political will and law, claiming that today, with this new government, we have political will instead of law – which implies that there is no real fight against corruption. I believe that what we are talking about is political will which dictates the implementation of law, since the law will not be implemented by simply establishing official will, which has been cancelled by some past political will. When laws are not being implemented, which means that there is no official will, we must ask who and why is preventing, hindering and not allowing official will, or directly placing it under some non-official will, for example – party, tycoon, church, personal, family, etc. Today, we are almost unanimously demanding that “the system acts” against corruption and that “the institutions of the system function”, instead of having political will, in this case Aleksandar Vucic, who is in charge of corruption.

But where did this system and these institutions suddenly come from? Just yesterday we were saying that they didn’t exist, that the judiciary reform had been a failure, that independent institutions did not function, that laws were not being respected and implemented, or that they were being adopted in accordance with personal interests. We claimed that such a situation is a consequence of the will of the government, which lost the elections in May last year, for, if it wasn’t so, maybe it would not have lost the elections in the first place. And now we expect the system which does not exist to start functioning on its own. A step towards automatic functioning of the system in regard to social issues, that would resemble the situation of turning the car engine, would entail that out of 100 times the driver is stopped for breaking the traffic regulations, he receives a ticked 99 times. That would mean that the will became systemic, almost automatic and almost perfectly shaped by law and efficient implementation. But this is not totally true either. If we take a step back from the case of ticketing a driver who commits traffic violations, we can see that the normative-value system is always tuned towards certain supreme values – thus, we have the republic tribunal, the class tribunal, the party tribunal, his or her majesty’s tribunal – and these are all different “mechanisms”, the majority of them discriminatory by nature.

How should we perceive the current situation, in which the political will to curtail corruption has appeared? We have already demonstrated that invoking the law, the institutions and the system out of the blue is no good if they do not exist because official will has been suspended, and if selective impunity ruled in the past. It would be ideal if the institutions of the system functioned and prevented civil servants from using their position to undermine public interest in favor of personal interest. To come even close to this ideal, we must first motivate the people to start acting in this direction. The political will that prevented the functioning of institutions is suspended, thus allowing the institutions which are not functioning – to start functioning. It is unimaginable that any institution in Serbia could arrest Miroslav Miskovic without political will, that is, without someone pushing the button and saying “go”. The crucial question is whether political will is to become sedimented in permanent and independent official will, which means that the system has started to function, and which, by itself, is a complex and long road, or whether it will function when the button is pressed, at the blink of political will which orders: now you function – now you don’t; now you prosecute – now you shove the files in a drawer.

So far, there are two hypotheses. One is that Aleksandar Vucic wants to strip a small group of tycoons who ruled state institutions of their illegal authority and power. We are talking about Miskovic and Beko, and there will probably be more, but these two are the most powerful. This is one of the main causes of corruption in our country, particularly visible in the privatization process, in the way laws are adopted and implemented, political parties are funded and the judicial reform and independent regulatory bodies are undermined. And that would be the end. Only one cause of corruption would be attacked, no matter how important it is. And it remains to be seen whether all such cases will be eliminated. However, another important cause of corruption exists in our country – the phenomenon of captured state, which is characteristic for numerous new democracies. This is the phenomenon of a party state within a multiparty system, when the state is privatized by party officials and members. In order to tackle this issue, we need completely different measures and a different “political will”, in order to free the country from party rule and privatization for personal interests. This latter, as a cause of corruption, will not be eliminated while this government is in power, because, in addition to striping the tycoons of their illegal powers, additional conditions have to be met. They include economic independence of citizens, their ability to work, earn and spend, invest their funds and make a living on these investments, instead of fighting over seats in local parliaments, or some position in the public sector in order to survive. This is why the public sector is so powerful in this country, although it produces losses; it is inefficient due to weak, primarily party and uncontrolled management. For the last two decades, economy has been backsliding, being destroyed in wars, in illegal and unsuccessful privatizations, by particracy and nationalism as ideology. Thus, it should not be a surprise that it is on its deathbed. The promises of the so-called departisation will not succeed due to strong pressure, which comes from above, for employment at any cost – thus, the phenomena of cronyism and nepotism are not a consequence of political factors, but of factors coming from the economic sphere, which burden the political sphere with tasks that do not belong to it, such as, for example, employment.

Therefore, something can be done efficiently at this time, but not everything that we would like. Thus, we should not prevent what can be done by obsolete and obsessive criticism. At the same time, we should warn that some future government must first focus on solving the issue of economic development, in the context of eliminating particracy, which has a negative influence on the economy. And this goal may be reached if we manage to preserve democracy and the right to elect and depose the government, because each government has its limitations, and should be replaced with the one which is able to work on issues that the previous government was not able to. This is the way to move forward, and for Serbia and its citizens, moving forward is a matter of life or death.

Peščanik.net, 11.01.2013.

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Vesna Pešić, političarka, borkinja za ljudska prava i antiratna aktivistkinja, sociološkinja. Diplomirala na Filozofskom fakultetu u Beogradu, doktorirala na Pravnom, radila u Institutu za društvene nauke i Institutu za filozofiju i društvenu teoriju, bila profesorka sociologije. Od 70-ih pripada peticionaškom pokretu, 1982. bila zatvarana sa grupom disidenata. 1985. osnivačica Jugoslovenskog helsinškog komiteta. 1989. članica Udruženja za jugoslovensku demokratsku inicijativu. 1991. članica Evropskog pokreta u Jugoslaviji. 1991. osniva Centar za antiratnu akciju, prvu mirovnu organizaciju u Srbiji. 1992-1999. osnivačica i predsednica Građanskog saveza Srbije (GSS), nastalog ujedinjenjem Republikanskog kluba i Reformske stranke, sukcesora Saveza reformskih snaga Jugoslavije Ante Markovića. 1993-1997. jedna od vođa Koalicije Zajedno (sa Zoranom Đinđićem i Vukom Draškovićem). 2001-2005. ambasadorka SR Jugoslavije, pa SCG u Meksiku. Posle gašenja GSS 2007, njegovim prelaskom u Liberalno-demokratsku partiju (LDP), do 2011. predsednica Političkog saveta LDP-a, kada napušta ovu partiju. Narodna poslanica (1993-1997, 2007-2012).