When Serbian ultranationalist Vojislav Seselj was controversially cleared of war crimes last month, cheers were heard far to the east of Belgrade. “I congratulate my friend on victory!” Russia’s deputy prime minister Dmitry Rogozin tweeted soon after the UN court in The Hague acquitted Seselj. “But who will restore his health, ruined by prison and public humiliation?” asked Rogozin of a man who spent almost 12 years in jail in the Netherlands before being allowed home on health grounds in 2014 to await the court’s decision. A verdict that outraged many in the Balkans and which faces an appeal by the prosecution freed Seselj to contest parliamentary elections this Sunday, in which Serbia’s resurgent nationalism and the country’s old ally Russia are to the fore.
Seselj’s Radical Party is expected to return to parliament after an absence of four years, and is likely to find common cause there with the Dveri party that also opposes Serbia’s EU integration and favours much stronger ties with Moscow.
Polls suggest the Radicals and Dveri together will take more than 10 per cent of votes, far behind the ruling Progressive Party of prime minister Aleksandar Vucic, but indicative of a rightward shift in Serbia that is mirrored across the region. “We’ve seen nothing good from trying to join the EU, the economy is just getting worse,” said Veselin, a retired engineer in Belgrade. “I don’t think Europe really wants us, they have enough trouble now with refugees,” he added.
“I’ll probably vote for Seselj. We need a strong character to stand up to Vucic and his clan, and he would bring help from Russia. Russia is strong now, and if Europe keeps having problems it would be good to be friendly with the Russians.”
Full Article: Ultranationalism and Russia colour Serbia’s election.