Put this in the “be careful what you wish for” file.
Almost all of the well-meaning, responsible members of the international community insist that free and democratic elections are the key to a stable and pro-Western Serbia and regional stability. But sometimes the pesky people vote for scoundrels and ne’er-do-wells whose stock in trade is thumbing their noses at the international community.
The biggest vote-getter (27.6 percent) in last week’s Serbian parliamentary election was the Serbian Radical Party, an extreme nationalist party that once ruled alongside former dictator Slobodan Milosevic.
Its nominal leader, Vojislav Seselj, is awaiting trial at the U.N. war-crimes court in the Netherlands — and has been elected to parliament.
Milosevic himself, listed as a Socialist Party candidate, also got enough votes (7.6 percent) to be in parliament, though he also might have trouble showing up.
The two pro-Western groupings together got about 30 percent of the votes. Add G-17 Plus, a coalition of self-described reformist technocrats, with 11.5 percent, and the generally pro-Western forces still don’t have a majority to form a coalition government, even if they could get together.
So democracy has led to confusion and a strengthening of anti-Western forces (Seselj calls America an exporter of “evil, corruption and crime”). Not quite what was expected.
Something similar could happen in Iraq if a democratic election reflected the population. About 60 percent to 65 percent of Iraqis are Shia Muslims and many (though not all) Shias want an Islamic Republic similar to Iran. (In fairness, it must be noted that Iran’s population is pushing for a softening of the government’s Islamic hard line.)
Our leaders should understand that democracy, stripped to the essentials, is just a way to choose rulers. What are more important, if a country wants to move toward civilized prosperity, are the rule of law, a robust civil society independent of government control and a commitment to personal liberty.
Bringing in new democratically chosen tyrants does not constitute progress.