Our program is simple: we want to rule Italy.
Benito Mussolini, before the fascist March on Rome in 1922
A few days ago, citizen Aleksandar Vucic became the new president of Serbia, but also, in a sense, the theorist of his own political system. The cover of the last issue of Nedeljnik shows A. Vucic playing chess with himself in the cabinet at Andricev venac, surrounded by volumes of beautifully ornamented books on the shelves. Reading the photo is not difficult and the message is obvious: politics is like a fine chess game, and, due to a lack of a worthy opponent, Vucic is playing by himself. Other Serbian politicians are mere chess figures, subordinate to one political will and one political mind. No matter which figures win, white or black, the winner is the same.
Chess, however, is a game with numerous combinations and strict rules. Constitutional rules governing parliamentary democracy and the division of power in the state are similar. But if we don’t respect the rules of chess, or parliamentary democracy, the game changes. And that’s why Vucic’s policy is far from chess. For he has played and destroyed the institutions of the state governed by law in countless ways, introducing his own rules to the game in order to increase personal authority, so the game now resembles Risk much more than anything else. A game where a player stacks an army, then throws dice, in order to conquer enemy territory and fulfill the goal – total destruction of another player, the conquest of a group of continents, or the whole world. “I see only a battlefield”, Vucic said, describing his warlike understanding of politics, and added: “If you’ve entered the political ring, then come in, put the gloves on and fight … I’m in the political ring, I’ve put on the gloves, and I’m fighting. End of story” (Nedeljnik, No. 284, June 22nd, 2017). These are not the words of a political chess player, but a man who breaks the chess pieces first, then throws them at others.
In Vucic’s political system, the president of the state forms the executive power, and also controls the legislative power, governing it through an absolutely obedient parliamentary majority. Both authorities report to him as president, so we can say that Vucic now acts as a sovereign, that is, the sole source of power. In a representative system, citizens are the source of power, and political conflicts are resolved in elections, through the change of governments. But in Vucic’s political system, calling on the people is meaningless, because the people can’t do anything. Except elect him again.
That is why Vucic has begun developing his own theory of power, at the rudimentary level, of course: “They, too,” referring to the opposition, “don’t need to worry – I’ll get out of the way myself. Even then they will not defeat me; I’ll step down on my own.” And: “I think I know when I will leave power. And that will be voluntary, and that will be my decision, not because the opposition will win the majority” (Nedeljnik, No. 284, June 22nd, 2017). Vucic indirectly admits that he holds absolute power and that this power can’t be lost in elections, because there is no mechanism for the removal of such a government. Absolute power can only be voluntarily abandoned and Vucic is completely right about this. The question, however, remains unanswered: how does one leave absolute power, and why would one want to?
The absolutist state at one time replaced the feudal, after the king had defeated the feudalists, abolished feudal privileges, and formed a strong bureaucracy and central power. After the revolutions of the 18th century and the gradual transfer of sovereignty to the people during the 19th century, introduction of authoritarian rule in the 20th century required a mass political party which was meant to replace the people and hand over all power to the leader. That’s why Vucic is praising SNS so much. They are smarter and more educated than their political opponents, speak more foreign languages, work more, they know more. Vucic also said this about the party: “But when we made SNS, I told Tomislav that we would create a broad national political party that should accept people from all levels. Liberal democrats, nationalists, socialists, communists. We don’t care about these differences, because we care about the future“ (Nedeljnik, No. 284, June 22nd, 2017). Principal political differences can sometimes be left aside in the formation of a certain level of power by various political parties. But the principle political differences can’t be left aside within a political party, without making them completely irrelevant. Thus, the future Vucic is talking about is actually the future of an undeniable SNS rule.
SNS is, therefore, more of a social layer using the government for acquiring and keeping high, privileged, and governing positions in society. This new elite came to power in 2012, when Tomislav Nikolic was elected president of Serbia. Citizen Vucic again: “Tomislav Nikolic did historic things for this country. He began changing Serbia from the core and, today, Serbia is a different country. Some want to throw it back into the mud of the past in which members of the false elite can blackmail, extort, do what they want and as they like. Nikolic helped us fight this in a very serious way, and I will always respect that” (Nedeljnik, No. 284, June 22nd, 2017). Vucic’s “we” represents all those who lost high social positions after the fall of Milosevic. The existential frustration of the present social elite for the loss of positions in 2000 was well described by Nikola Selakovic: “My father (who was a member of SPS) ran a company which had 2,500 workers and successfully operated throughout the sanctions. It was, however, the first company in which crisis management was introduced and old management fired”. And: “This, of course, was not the only reason for my political engagement, but there is always that one drop that makes you take big steps in life” (Nedeljnik, No. 279, May 18th, 2017). Selakovic’s motives for entering politics are deeply private. He uses politics to regain high social positions that once belonged to his father and his entire family. As if it were a feudal property and hereditary family right to govern Serbia.
Further consolidation of the new SNS class doesn’t just keep Vucic at the helm of state power – he also rules as sovereign from the top of the social pyramid. Therefore, it is not necessary for him to remain SNS president. Journalist: “Who will succeed you as the party leader?” AV: “I’ve given myself a little more time to think about that, but I am convinced that they will continue the tradition of invincibility over those who had ruled badly and who, today, are behaving even more irresponsibly as the opposition”. (Nedeljnik, No. 284, June 22nd, 2017). Of course SNS is capable of continuing the unbeatable tradition, because it has seeped into all pores of society, from top to bottom. The loss of power will also mean the loss of social positions – however big or small it may be – and there is no better motivation for an irregular political fight. Again, we can ask ourselves: how is this social-state structure supposed to be replaced? At the elections or…?
Translated by Marijana Simic