Srdja TrifkovicThe political consequences of the first round of presidential election in Serbia, held on January 20, are significant, and they will remain that significance regardless of the outcome of the second round on February 3. President Boris Tadic lost the first round last Sunday to Tomislav Nikolic of the Serbian Radical Party (SRS) by almost five percentage points and is fighting an uphill battle to retain the presidency.The voters have given overwhelming support—over 55 percent—to the candidates who are adamant that there can be no compromise over Serbia’s fundamental position on Kosovo. Those three candidates, Tomislav Nikolic (the Radical Party, SRS), Velimir Ilic (Our Serbia, NS) and Milutin Mrkonjic (the Socialist Party, SPS), say that there can be no compromize over the status of Kosovo in exchange for some vague promise of Serbia’s eventual “European integration.”It appears that Boris Tadic and his followers have badly overestimated the President’s popularity. They may have mecome the victims of their own peopaganda, which is easier to understand in view of the fact that all the mainstream print and electronic media in Serbia—which are either financed or owned Western corporations, governments and quasi-NGOs—are openly pro-Tadic. Such unfounded self-confidence had prompted the pro-Western camp to force this election prematurely, and without any regard for the views of their coalition partners, the Democratic Party of Serbia of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. Accordingly, on December 12 of last year Speaker of the Assembly of the Republic of Serbia Oliver Dulic—a ranking official of Tadic’s Democratic Party (DS)—called an early presidential election for January 20.This decision was made with prior approval of Brussels and Washington but, let us emphasize, without any previous consultation with Prime Minister Kostunica. He and the DSS were opposed to the poll, arguing that it was highly inappropriate to call an early presidential election at a time when the threat of unilateral secession of Kosovo is real and ought to take precedence over domestic political squabbles. The turmoil of an election campaign, it was argued from Kostunica’s camp, could threaten unity of the country and the coherence of the shaky ruling coalition at a vulnerable moment.The result of the first round makes Kostunica’s position decisive for the outcome of the second. The Prime Minister set his terms on January 23, when he asked Tadic to formally commit himself not to sign the Stabilization and Association Agreement with the European Union if the EU decides to dispatch a civilian administrative and police mission to Kosovo—a key move that is viewed as an implicit go-ahead for independence. Kostunica favors a resolution stating that the EU mission would violate UN resolution 1244 as well as the Serbian Constitution, which would mean that the EU has voluntarily cancelled the agreement initialled last November.

Tadic would be loath to accept such terms, because he claims that the association process should proceed regardless of the Kosovo issue. On the other hand, without Kostunica’s endorsement he will find it haerd to garner an additional 15 percent of votes necessary for victory. In other words, things are becoming uncomfortably complicated for Tadic. He and his supporters had wanted this election to be held as early as possible because they feared that the unilateral proclamation of Kosovo’s independence (UDI)—which is certain to be be supported by most key Western powers—would fuel Serbian anger and work to the detriment of “pro-Western, moderate reformists.” The timing of the election was accordingly chosen by the European Union (EU), the United States, and the leaders of the DS, as a means of getting Tadic re-elected before the unilateral declaration of independence in Pristina.

In this manner Serbia has been subjected to the repetition of a sordid scenario we have witnessed just over a year ago. Last January the unveiling of the Ahtisaari plan was deliberately postponed by a month, so that the Serbian parliamentary election could be held on January 21st before its terms were known. At that time the ruse had the same objective as today: to help Tadic by not burdening his party with the mortgage of Ahtisaari’s disastrous plan supported by all major Western powers.

Both then and today, Tadic’s rhetoric promised the squaring of the circle: saving Kosovo on the one hand, but getting ever closer to Europe on the other. This is palpably an impossibility. All key Western leaders have stated, in one form or another, that Serbia would have to chose between retaining its claim on Kosovo and getting closer to the EU. Such statements have come from British Prime Minister Gordon Brown and his predecessor Tony Blair, from French President Nicolas Sarkozy, and a veritable array of American bureaucrats.

Most Serbs are not a priori Euro-skeptics. A Gallup Poll conducted a year ago shows that, generally speaking, the majority looked favourably on the EU. Thdere is a catch, however: an even greater majority is adamant that Kosovo is an inalienable part of Serbia. In subsequent polls, most Serbs have said that they would not give up the title to Kosovo in return for the accelerated prospect of EU membership. Furthermore, in the same Gallup poll, they said they viewed Russia—which has said it would veto a Western-backed UN Security Council plan for Kosovo’s statehood—even more positively than the EU: 63 percent of those polled approved of Russia’s leadership.

On January 20, Serbia responded to this Euro-dilemma with greater clarity and decisiveness than Tadic and his sponsors had ever expected. Over 55 percent of Serbia’s voters supported three candidates (Tomislav Nikolic, vise-president of the Radical Party; Velimir-Velja Ilic who leads “Our Serbia,” a DSS coalition partner; and Milutin Mrkonjic of the Socialist Party) who are uncopromizing in their rejection of any “deal” with the West over Kosovo. The voters’ message was clear: if Serbia is forced by the West to choose between preserving the title to Kosovo and joining “Europe” on Western terms—which evidently demands the amputation of Kosovo—Serbia will opt for the former. If the EU sends the illegal mission to Kosovo—and it is almost certain that this will happen shortly after the second round—that would be a clear sign for Serbia that time has come to say that further aspirations to the membership of the EU are not only futile but so demeaning and degrading.

The tables have been turned: it is now up to Washington and Brussels to choose between Serbs and Kosovo Albanians. Do they wants an illegally constituted Kosovo that is going to be a black hole of jihad-terrorism, ethnic cleansing, unprecedented corruption, institutionalized criminality, drug peddling and white slave trading? Or do they want a solid partnership with Serbia—the key country in the Western Balkans and a civilized country, which the Albanian controlled Kosovo never will be—on the basis of the recognition of her territorial integrity?.

In the run-up to the second round on February 3 the media in Belgrade, which is overwhelmingly pro-Tadic, will exert massive pressure on the Serbs by invoking the ghosts of sanctions and economic collapse, if not yet another war, if Nikolic is successful. They will insist that Tadic’s defeat would mean further isolation. But before making their choice the Serbs will look at the outside world and see what the supporters of Kosovo’s independence abroad are hoping for, who do they want to win in Serbia. The supporters of Kosovo’s independence want Boris Tadic to be the winner on February 3 because they see in him the embodiment of the kind of “pro-Western reformist” now prevalent all over post-Communist Eastern Europe. They are pleased that Tadic keeps repeating—strictly for the domestic consumption—all the right patriotic platitudes, without believing them for one moment. While parroting “Serbian” rhetoric for the popular consumption, Tadic & Co. are sending messages to Brussels and Washington, sotto voce, that when the time comes they will be cooperative and do what needs to be done. Tadic and his protégé, Serbia’s current foreign minister, have been winking and nudging to their Western interlocutors throughout the Kosovo negotiating process. If Tadic can appoint a man of so uncertain personal loyalty and so dubious moral qualities such as Vuk Jeremic to the post of Serbia’s foreign minister, he is not to be trusted on any other front.

By re-electing Boris Tadic the Serbian voters would provide the supporters of Kosovo independence with the sure signal that Serbia is effectively reconciled to the amputation of the Province, and resigned to the endless continuation of never-to-be-completed “European integrations” that will always entail new conditions to be met, ever higher prices to be paid, and ever more brazen blackmails.

In the second round of the Serbian election the name of the eventual winner is perhaps less significant than the fact that the nation has displayed a remarkable level of unity and spontaneous determination. Whoever wins, he will have to take account of the fact that a small yet proud Balkan nation has had enough humiliation and that it will bend no more to either Washington or Brussels.