People believe Serbia needs democracy, but an enlightened despot first

by Cristian Florescu

People in Serbia believe the country needs democracy, but it now needs an enlightened dictator – someone committed and responsible, according to a survey by y the Belgrade Center for Security Policy (BCSP) titled ‘There is no democracy in Serbia, and it is not desirable’, writes

The Centre’s analysis suggests that only ten per cent of the polled believe that Serbia is democratic. In contrast, the others think there is no democracy or that if it’s there, it faces serious problems, i.e. that the country is in a hybrid state, the BCSP director Predrag Petrovic has told ‘Why Serbia’s Democracy is Corrupt’ conference.

Some 49 per cent of the polled support President Aleksandar Vucic and say Serbia needs an enlightened despot. „They are tired of protests and want someone they choose to carry out the changes. But that is a problem because an absolute power tends to spread,“ Petrovic said.

BCBP surveyed the second half of September 2021, in direct communication with 1,000 respondents.

Asked whether the politicians work in the people’s interest, only ten per cent believe they do. In comparison, 90 per cent of the polled think they work for themselves, are organised in interest groups and abuse power.

“The media are highly ranked at citizens’ list of tools used by the politicians to abuse power,” Petrovic added.

Srdjan Hercigonja, a BCBP researcher, adds that people see media as the representatives of those who finance them.

“Up to 90 per cent of the polled believe President Aleksandar Vucic is the key person in the decision-making process in the country, while both trust and mistrust in institutions show that people recognise there is no democracy in Serbia,” Hercigonja said.

He added the polled also recognised that “the process of capturing is gaining speed.”

BCBP analysis also suggests that people are well aware of what needs to be done. Three-fourths of them believe the lustration must be carried out; those responsible for misuses must be dismissed and banned from working in institutions, and that laws treat everybody the same.

However, the researchers added that “the problem is that those people also say we need someone like Vucic who communicates with citizens daily but does that in the people’s interest. And that is a paradox – they say there is no democracy in Serbia, but the country now needs an enlightened dictator, someone committed and responsible to resolve this bad situation to the benefit of the people,” Petrovic said.

“On the other hand, the polled recognise the President as the Centre of political corruption in the country. The message from our focus groups is that all institutions are corrupt, that everyone is ‘involved’ in the process and the main player, who ‘pulls’ all the strings, is Vucic, who is at the ‘top of the pyramid’,” Petrovic said, citing the opinion poll’s result.

Hercigonja underlined that the result saw many citizens believing the potential use of violence could lead to changes. “Over 60 per cent of them think that violence is acceptable in defending family safety, more than 50 per cent when it comes to protecting traditional values, way of life and ‘defence of the people”.

“I believe that such a view of violence as a potential solution is a consequence of the institutions’ reactions to previous civic initiatives and petitions,” he said.

The survey also showed that the health care system, the fire service, the army and the Serbian Orthodox Church enjoyed the most trust among the polled by the BCSP.

The presentation of the research ‘There is no democracy in Serbia, and it is not desirable” was organised within the project ‘Western Balkan Security Barometer’ in cooperation with the Kosovo Center for Security Studies and supported by the ‘National Endowment for Democracy (NED).

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