‘After two years as the president of the Democratic Party, it is obvious that Zoran Lutovac had no political or operational plan for strengthening the DS. He found the party, as he likes to say, at 2.5 percent support, but today the support is even smaller,’ Nataša Vučković, a Democratic MP until recently, said in an interview for Kurir.
She also points out that the DS has lost its identity by joining the Alliance for Serbia (AfS), adding that the consequences of the boycott will be enormous.
Will an extraordinary party conference of the DS be held to elect the new leadership? Lutovac does not accept convening such a conference.
I hope it will. The situation in the Democratic Party calls for a democratic resolution, and an intra-party election is the best way to achieve that. If the current leadership is convinced that it enjoys the majority support of the membership and the party committees, it is unclear why they keep avoiding it. In contrast, Branislav Lečić, who has announced his candidacy for the post of party president in this election, is threatened with being expelled, while the orchestrated online attacks testify to the fact that many want to make sure there is no improvement in the DS.
What do you hold against Lutovac?
Let me start from what is positive. Lutovac has maintained a clear and resolute opposition stance of the DS towards this administration, insisting on the demands for the freedom of the media and free and fair elections. There is no doubt that the DS is still at the vanguard of the fight against the authoritarian rule of one man, the non-transparent decisions of this government, defending as it does the rule of law, the democratic procedure, and human rights. However, what I hold against him is that, as party president, he has failed to preserve the unity of the DS and to rally everyone who has contributed to the development and reputation of the DS for years. The announcement of the purges in the party is beneath the dignity of the DS, and it only weakens the party further. Especially in the current situation, when we need both young and old members, and both seasoned and new ones. After two years, it is obvious that Zoran Lutovac had no political or operational plan for strengthening the DS. He found the party, as he likes to say, at 2.5 percent support, but today the support is even smaller. Furthermore, the president of the DS should not contribute to the impression that the leaders of other parties have a greater influence on the Democratic Party’s actions than its leadership, which others have used to diminish the role of the DS in the opposition front. Lastly, I hold against him the fact that he has not found a way for the DS to take part in the elections with the other democratic and pro-European parties which did want to stand in the elections. We would have attacked the legitimacy of this administration much better and more successfully if we had taken part in the elections.
He claims that, ‘a part of the dissatisfied members of the DS who have lost posts in the party and state administration want a partnership with the Serbian Progressive Party.’
In Serbia, when you do not have arguments, you call the person with a different opinion a traitor. To imply that Vida Ognjenović and other party friends, known for their democratic positions and actions, are in favour of the partnership with the Progressives is unconvincing and malicious. It is a weak defence of the party president’s inability to ensure party unity.
You were one of the opponents of boycotting the elections. What will be the long-term consequences for the DS of the decision not to stand before the electorate?
Yes, I think that you should always take part in elections. The party renews itself in elections, new faces appear, the organization is strengthened and brought back to life, and the party electorate is activated. It was devastating to see, after 30 years of the multi-party system, that the voting ballot in the local election in the Savski Venac Municipality did not have the democratic and civic options. The consequences for the DS will be enormous. It is difficult to act as an extra-parliamentary party and make sure you remain in the public eye. Operating within the Parliament undoubtedly allows that.
Is the DS really in such a difficult financial position that it may lose the party offices in many cities?
The old debts and the fact that we no longer have councillors in local government councils will jeopardize many party committees. It is crucial for all future victories of the opposition to maintain the party infrastructure. It is built up slowly and with difficulty, as is evident with the new parties.
Has the DS profited or lost by entering the AfS?
Look, many of us have criticized the way in which the DS joined the AfS, without any serious party discussion. No one questioned the need to unify opposition activity, but many of us had reservations towards joining such an alliance, in which we lost our sovereignty and independence. Firstly, we thought that the DS as a part of the AfS must not and cannot be equal in influence with the extra-parliamentary parties with no infrastructure or experience. Lutovac ought to have brokered a greater influence of the DS in the decision-making process, for example through a greater number of members in the Presidency. What is more important, the DS lost its identity in the AfS, surrounded as it was with a majority of politically right-wing and conservative parties, the parties using a different political method, such as Dveri. The DS became their prisoner, and its pro-European profile became unconvincing and inaudible. The DS has not publicly addressed the issues crucial to the future of this society for a long time, or has been very quiet about them.
What do you think is the future of the new alliance – the United Opposition of Serbia (UOS)?
The breakup of the AfS shows that we were right, and the formation of the UOS as a loose alliance confirms that the AfS strategy was wrong and had no results, starting from the failed boycott.
How should the opposition act in the upcoming period?
Today the political life in Serbia is binary – for or against Vučić. However, it is not enough to be against Vučić. We can see that this administration is crumbling after eight years, and that is normal. But it will not be enough for victory. First of all, hope must be awakened. And then votes must be taken away from Vučić. The key question is how we will achieve that. Unfortunately, the tactic of the opposition in the past year has not resulted in greater support in the electorate, which is a cause for concern. It is not enough for an administration to be discredited. An alternative must be strengthened which will be powerful enough and which brings hope to the population.
B. Karović/ Kurir.rs