“Save Serbia and kill yourself, Slobba”

Deranged politicians, mad generals, street rallies, power cuts, union strikes, teacher strikes, a general strike, the Resistance, police beatings, government cover-ups, Montenegrin mafia, election fraud, RTS v. independent media, the Socialists v. the United opposition, us v. them, “the international community”, Kosovo situation, that Draskovic git, the Orthodox church, our traditional friendship with Ghana, illegal arrests, and, of course, football.

This isn’t only a list of just about every major factor and event I mentioned at least once during the 10 months I’ve been doing this – every one of those things is once again here, only this time it’s all at once.

Up until ten days ago Serbia could have passed for a normal eastern European country to a casual bystander, though an unusual number of Yugos and mile-long queues in front of grocery stores would probably arouse some suspicion.

But now, it’s all upside down.

Every single store, be it private or state owned, has some form of a “Strike!” sign in front, schools aren’t working, neither are universities and people who are on strike aren’t wasting their newly acquired free time watching TV (since the government is using blackouts to intimidate people, putting the blame on the coal miners’ strike, while using army generals to threaten the strikers).

Instead, they’re blocking roads, government offices and the few businesses that are still in operation, chanting the now famous “Save Serbia and kill yourself, Slobodan” sentence, which sounds great in Serbian, but is really crap when translated into any other language.

The funny thing is – all of this didn’t really need to happen. For a few brief moments Slobba had a chance to do what Draskovic had done after hearing the results of his party – gracefully accept the overwhelming defeat and take a one-way ticket to Russia, Cuba or Iraq. But as always, he blew it.

How that happened doesn’t really matter. What does matter is what’s going on now, and the shortest possible way to describe it would be to quote the future mayor of Belgrade, Milan Protic – “This isn’t the beginning of the end – it’s The End”.

And taking a part in it can be very therapeutic. I should know – I’ve been a part of the first two hundred people that left their work (or in this case school) on a Friday morning in Jagodina to do some protesting. The very same day, two hundred turned into one thousand, which increased by five hundred that evening. The numbers grew and grew, until Tuesday night when more than five thousand people came out on the streets (when I say that I mean that it could be six, or seven, or even eight thousand of them – it just too big to measure without a bird’s eye view).

When you have a crowd that big around you, you’re allowed, or more likely expected, to make as much noise as possible, whether by shouting, clapping, or whistle blowing. That’s one reason I now feel pretty strange – with a sore throat, a slight headache, and a not so slight ringing in my ears.

Other symptoms include feet that feel like they’re about to come off, baggy eyes and an all-round messy appearance, which is understandable when you consider the amount of time it takes several thousand people to cover more than 50 miles by feet, all the time bumping into each other and stepping on each other’s feet. And who’s got time to shave and take a bath while bringing down a government?

If you think the numbers I’ve been talking about so far are small, you’re right. But remember, that’s in Jagodina, which is by no means a big, important urban centre, at least not since Arkan got shot. Other, larger towns had tens of thousands of people on the streets – Belgrade had half a million the night when it was clear They lost – with the Serbian church accepting Kostunica as the winner (and when Red Star beat Leicester, I should add – a significant amount of people rallied just because of that).

A valid question right now would be one asking what exactly all those people are trying to achieve. And it’s simple, Milosevic lost in the first round of voting, with only 35 per cent of the vote, while Kostunica got 53 per cent. But the official (i.e. Slobba’s) results say he has 40 per cent, with 48 per cent for Kostunica. So, Kostunica somehow lost five per cent and, surprise, surprise, Milosevic gained the same amount of votes.

Since neither candidate got more than 50 per cent, there must be a second round, or so the Federal Electoral Commission says (They offered my father to once again be in one of the local commissions. He told them to go bleep themselves, in exactly those words… except for the bleep).

The most problematic are votes from Kosovo – they say 200,000 people voted there (needless to say, all for Milosevic), but the UN counted only 45,000.

The opposition filed a complaint saying 155,000 votes are fake, but the commission turned it down. The reason – “Albanians are also citizens of Yugoslavia. They have a right to vote for whomever they want”. The commission also stated that the proof of the elections being regular was the number of foreign observers that were there – all from Ghana, India, Pakistan, Iraq, and other such similar, quote, “ancient democracies”.

Montenegro was also a problem. Its president, and a close friend of the Mafia, refused to take part in the elections (thus causing a crisis and shifting the attention from, ahem, his other activities), so Milosevic’s allies got all of the parliament seats there, which will give the socialists a majority in the parliament. But the allies I’m talking about want to see who will win the presidency, and then form a new government with the winners, which is only increasing the importance of the presidential elections’ outcome.

So, we’re now trying to get a recount of the vote, and that’s where the “international community” comes into play. If only they could get their act straight – two of the most important countries involved, Russia and Greece (traditional allies, blah, blah, blah…), are changing their position every day, first saying that there should be a second round, then that Kostunica is the winner after all, and after that that there should be a foreign mediation.

And until they finally agree about what they should do, we’re taking the matter into our own hands. This Thursday a great big stream of cars and buses will take off from every city, town and village in Serbia to Belgrade, or more precisely, a part of it called Dedinje, where Milosevic’s house is. That’s at least one million people knocking on his door trying to get some answers.

And if I can somehow find a ride, I’ll be one of them.

Another blackout is due in about half an hour, and I still have some work to do (printing banners for tonight’s rally), so I gotta go. I’m sort of in a hurry…