It would be difficult for the opposition to justify the idea of a neutral leader as an engine of mobilising voters who’ve abstained for a decade and to generate the trust necessary to ensure that such a strategy will succeed this time
While the centre-left orientated opposition defines its strategy for the forthcoming elections, political analysts are bombarding voters with ideas and figures on how to weaken the ruling SNS party. The latest idea is that the opposition needs to find a single, neutral candidate, who is sufficiently pliable to absorb diverse inputs from both left and right opposition parties. In other words, the opposition needs “Koštunica 2.0”.
The strategy of a unified neutral leader is doomed to failure. A neutral leader is a myth. The DOS campaign presented Kоštunica as a neutral leader, having a second level camp with civic guerrilla on the streets promoting simple ideas such as “Gotov je” (He’s done). In the aftermath of the 2000 presidential elections, Vojislav Koštunica proved to be everything but a neutral leader, ultimately creating an atmosphere of cohabitation within DOS. Expressed differently, the campaign was successful in bringing down Slobodan Milošević, but failed over the long run. For two decades, SPS, SNS and their political satellites have perpetually demoted the values and relativised the achievements of bringing down an authoritarian, warmongering regime.
Burdened with the legacy of 5th october, the opposition cannot hope to defeat president Vučić head-on in the 2022 elections. The aim of the opposition should be to increase the turnout and bring SNS to below 126 mps, thus forcing them to enter into a coalition
The grim image that’s often promoted in mainstream media forced the opposition to distance itself from the legacy of 5th October. In such an atmosphere of discourse, it would be difficult for the opposition to justify the idea of a neutral leader as an engine of mobilising voters who’ve abstained for a decade and generating the necessary trust to ensure that such a strategy will succeed this time. The scenario forces the opposition to fight on two fronts: one to clear the name of 5th October; the other to mobilise voters.
Increasing the turnout is the only way to contest the legitimacy of SNS-centric populism. Populism is a successful strategy only for as long as the image of their leader enjoying the support of the majority of the (true) people can be maintained. Defeating a populist leader is like defeating Hannibal: a full-frontal assault results in major defeat, while small and calculated skirmishes yield a result over the long term. Burdened with the legacy of 5th October, the opposition cannot hope to defeat President Vučić head-on in the 2022 elections. The aim of the opposition should be to increase the turnout and bring SNS to below 126 MPs, thus forcing them to enter into a coalition. Once the crack appears in the image of majority support for SNS, it can only spread, creating space for new non-populist parties to take centre stage on the Serbian political landscape.