by Max Barry

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Region: Greater Middle East

Beograd Danas
July 1st, 2019.


This morning, Politika newspaper printed a two-pages long interview with Igor Mitenović, a leader of largest and ruling party in Serbia - Social-democratic party (SDP). In his inverview, given from his party cabinet, Minister Mitenović turned on different political matters, from his personal relationship with his party colleague and current Prime Minister Adam Marković, to the possibilities of different coalitions in case of snap-elections. Sitting under the portrait of his father, the founder of SDP and former President of Serbia Filip Mitenović, he also turned on a most important moments in a party history lasting for almost three decades during which he was present almost from the first days, first as an consultant to his father and now as a party leader himself.

As Mitenović has explained, a party has survived many transformations during it's lifetime on Serbian political stage, with the longest period on rule of all Serbian parties. What started as a party of former communists and socialists, today is a modern structure of political power that unites multiple fractions, from neo-marxist intellectuals to neo-liberal progressive economists. In own complexity, the thing which makes it different from other parties and makes it even possible to function is the cult of personal relationships inside party oligarchy. As a party leader, Mitenović claims to know all local party bosses, every single party ideologist and each one of key party financiers. With all of them, he managed to build a mutual trust that grant him unquestionable loyalty of his party fellows. SDP is a party of strong discipline, where no one feels comfortable on his position because of knowledge that party leader overwatches his actions and calculates are they in accordance with party ideology. Iron discipline, performed in total media silence over the matter of internal conflicts inside fractions of SDP, made it possible for Mitenović to keep a leftist party united in supporting a neo-liberal Cabinet of current Prime Minister. While others are asking over the cause of Mitenović's almost unconditional support for Marković's neoliberal economic program, both of them are silent. The silence of party leader is an expression of political instinct, because he well knows that entire Government is dependent on his personal and party support, while he is collecting a benefits of being on power. As a gray eminence of Serbian politics, Mitenović is the one who actually define the Government's politics, and who is able to turn fellow Ministers against the Prime Minister any moment he wants. For now, he feels that it is a position worth of support for an neo-liberal economic program, even if he comes from a party with long-lasting socialist agenda. On the other side, he's not alone in his struggle - Martina Nastić-Stojičić, a leader of key governing-partner party DS, is also a neo-liberal herself, standing on the head of the oldest party in Serbia, with long tradition of pushing for welfare state.

But, the question rises - What if the coalition fails? Is there an alternative for SDP? In interview, Mitenović said it clearly - both KPS and DHSS are unacceptable as possible coalition partners. While he is open to flirt with liberals and democrats, he is unconditionally closed for even the smallest act of cooperation with right-wingers. It is an obligation of his father's party and country rule, which defined SDP as anti-nationalistic party, so both conservative KPS and populist DHSS seems not to be acceptable choise. Current coalition is the only possible for stable governing in which SDP could participate. But all this still depends on a political strategy made by man known as biggest opportunist and the most ambitious politician in Serbia - Igor Mitenović, current party leader of SDP and gray eminence of Marković's Government.