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Brotherly Balkan Nationalism

Milorad Dodik, president of the Bosnian Serb entity RS with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moskow (Courtesy photo for education only)

Milorad Dodik, president of the Bosnian Serb entity RS with Russian president Vladimir Putin in Moskow (Courtesy photo for education only)

By Maja Garsia-Djurdjević (BIRN) – Following the inauguration of the new US President, Donald Trump, I have taken a deep interest in US politics in an effort to try and understand what on earth happened in the US presidential elections.

I love the Obamas. I must admit that I did not follow Barack’s politics regularly. My love is probably based on Michelle’s guest appearances on US talk shows, which she rocked! I mean, the First Lady of America dancing to Bruno Mars on Ellen!

Getting back to the topic, for me, America represented a country of forward-looking, modern people. I am aware of its vastness and the diversity of its population, but overall I thought America was OK.

However, following the latest election I was left open-mouthed, flabbergasted, and in deep shock.

I laughed throughout the entire Trump inauguration (the first US Presidential inauguration I ever watched), aired live on local TV.

Although aware I was watching a charade, I couldn’t peel my eyes from the screen. So many things flowed through my head, but one question dominated: “How on earth did this man win the Presidency?”

I am not going to go into specifics about his opponent, or all that was wrong about his campaign; rather I’d like to draw a parallel between the last elections I voted in, in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, and the US presidential race.

Don’t laugh yet. Hear me out first. And note that Trump is very popular in the RS, among Dodik voters mainly.

As I headed to the polls in 2014, I felt that no matter for whom I voted, I would be spitting in my own face, betraying my own intellect and everything I had previously stood for.

On paper, I faced two options for the post of RS President: Ognjen Tadic, from the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, and the SNSD leader, Dodik.

The SDS, although arguably reformed, was founded by the Bosnian Serb wartime leader Radovan Karadzic in 1990 – the man who was recently found guilty of committing genocide in Srebrenica and a man I personally hold responsible for the horrendous acts that transpired in the 1990s.

During the election campaign, the SDS was firing firm and just shots at the SNSD policies, promising to offer broad alternatives and calling out their leader, Dodik, for his illegal acts. The party was seen by some as a means to topple the SNSD, which had ruled for a decade.

However, the SDS made a crucial mistake and, just like the SNSD, continued the nationalist rhetoric of the 1990s.

The entity’s ailing economic performance, again, took a backseat as the RS’s political “titans” clashed over who best protects Serb interests. They both forgot about the minorities, the Croats and Bosniaks living in the RS, and people like me who choose not to align themselves with any of Bosnia’s nationalist groups.

Opposite to Tadic and his party stood Dodik and the SNSD who, to me, represent everything that is wrong with this entity.

Here you have a foul-mouthed, egocentric, ignorant, Serb supremacist. A man who can’t communicate his thoughts without resorting to dirty language, a man I often think lives in a parallel universe, devoid of reason, intellect, compassion and good manners.

Here is an example of the way the man thinks: while the RS scrambles to collect money to cover holes in the budget, pay pensions and service its obligations; while thousands of people struggle to live on a wage of just over 180 euros; while nearly half of the populace is in dire financial straits, he says that people live better in the RS than in Western countries! He says we are ungrateful wingers!

Shame!

So, faced by an impossible situation, I voted for Tadic. Many Americans, although opposed to the politics of the Clintons, voted for Hillary, having judged she was less harmful. I went with the same logic.

But, Dodik and Trump triumphed. Why?

First we’ll deal with my local chief.

Dodik won because people from small towns see him as their saviour, because he concreted their street and in doing so fulfilled his last election promise…

Because he, the big Serb leader, will protect them from the evil others by building a wall between the RS and the Croat-Bosniak Federation entity, and between the RS and its Western foes (this includes Croatia), while promising to edge them closer to their big brother Serbia and mother Russia…

Sound familiar?

Unlike Dodik, Trump was a newcomer to the political arena. But, like Dodik, he recognised that national pride is brewing, that white supremacism is at an all-time high, that inland, small town folk are fed up with immigrants, and imported goods…

Trump realised that isolation was the trend of the day.

Yes, it wasn’t just rednecks and their equivalents in the RS that put the tyrannical duo in power; it was also educated young people. I can’t provide an explanation for this. However, I believe that Trump’s and Dodik’s personas were not responsible for these votes.

As I mentioned earlier, when faced by a dilemma, people tend to choose what they perceive to be a lesser evil. For them, Trump and Dodik seemed the only viable options among the given candidates.

Furthermore, many voted for the two tall, erratic men based on what I see as a selfish reason – the hope of securing employment.

Why selfish? Because much more is at stake when electing a leader than personal gain.

Trump promised to create jobs. He promised to bring jobs back to America.

Vojislav Šešelj acused for war crimes supports Donals Trump (Belgrade 2016 TV N1 info.ba. photo)

Vojislav Šešelj acused for war crimes supports Donals Trump (Belgrade 2016 TV N1 info.ba. photo)

Dodik, on the other hand, is always boasting of increased investment, which creates new jobs.
In 2015, he went so far to say that RS has a surplus of jobs on offer, but people refuse to work!

Based on the math, Dodik is engaging in empty talk, as usual. As for Trump, we have yet to see.

Voters and votes aside, Trump and Dodik have similar approaches to politics. Both are populists – an “elite class” trampling on the rights of the people.

Both are more concerned with their popularity, their egos, than with the jobs they were elected to do.

In their world, myth trumps logic and math.

We saw Trump’s remarks on his inaugural crowd. Dodik is the same when it comes to judging his own popularity. In short, both men are prone to making up numbers.

Both see themselves as leaders of movements. The people they are moving are their priority, the rest are just, well, not important.

Trump is launching an investigation into voter fraud in the states he did not win, while Dodik is putting together a black book of all of his opponents.

Both need to believe they have the support of the masses.

They are fighting to make America and the RS great again, so they think. They make up “facts” to convince themselves and their followers that their cause is just.

They crave admiration; it is in their core as people and as politicians.

Both are loudmouthed bullies. Both have launched wars with the media. Trump’s attacks on the media have been termed authoritarian. Dodik, on the other hand, has long been known for his dictatorial attitude.

“The press should keep its mouth shut”, Trump’s top aide said this week.  Just a few days earlier, the European Federation of Journalists condemned Dodik for denying a local broadcaster access to a press conference. But this is not all; Dodik frequently uses the “F” word when communicating with journalists.

Both interpret the constitution in their own way – that is, if either has actually read it.

They believe themselves to be all mighty rulers, representatives of gods perhaps, able to do everything and anything they please. They live in their own reality and wage wars with anyone not part of their realm.

Trump is much liked in the RS. Dodik’s followers probably see his image in Trump.

Students went so far to send him inaugural gifts, wishing him a successful presidency.

Dodik boasted of receiving an official invitation to his inauguration, but was refused a US visa (it turned out to be an invite to a private ball). His wife and the Prime Minister of RS travelled to Washington on taxpayers’ money, claiming Trump had invited them to attend, but photos released by the media revealed that in fact they stood in a section where attendance was paid for.

Dodik is hoping for a better deal from US foreign policy under Trump, though

Putin and Trump photo montage for education only

Putin and Trump photo montage for education only

it is doubtful Trump could find the RS on a map.

The way things stand, Dodik will continue to reign over the RS.  However, Trump’s future as the leader of the US is cloudy. People are reacting to his presidency, protesting, fighting to right a wrong.

In the RS, on the other hand, people are sipping beer while whinging that they have no money. They are leaving Bosnia to clean toilets and wash the backsides of old people, but God forbid any of them take to the streets and protest. In fact, most condemned the recent Women’s March.

In conclusion, America made a mistake. They installed a tyrant; we continue to blindly re-elect ours. – See more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/blog/trump-and-dodik-two-chips-off-the-same-block-02-01-2017#sthash.Y77EWbvs.dpuf

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