Is Serbia a dictatorship?

A Pseudo-Political Scientist Prophet of Hugi

This text was written spontaneously. An article in some magazine made me start thinking about the border between a democratic and an authoritarian system. I'm no political scientist, so anybody who knows better (Coc? :)) feel free to correct me.

Lately I read an article in which Serbia and Belarus were referred to as the "two dictatorships in Europe". Is Serbia - or, actually, the Yugoslavian Federation, which Serbia is part of - a dictatorship? At a demonstration against Milosevic's regime, two leaders of the Serbian opposition said that they hoped that Serbia would return to democracy by the next elections. This implicitely says that Serbia is not a democracy. But does it say it is a dictatorship? Would an open dictatorship allow free elections with the possibility that the opposition could gain the majority of the votes?

The meaning of "democracy" is: The people rule. In representative democracies, this is done by a freely elected parliament. The parliament is the legislative. The government is the executive. It can only work if its supporters have a certain majority in parliament. Otherwise important laws, such as the budget, would not be passed, and the government could be ousted any time.

In Yugoslavia, the Socialist party and other left-wing nationalist groups which support Milosevic have gained the majority by the last elections. Milosevic's regime is thus democratically legitimated. (Which, by contrast, Hitler's party was not: It never gained a majority in free elections. He, however, formed a coalition government and then destroyed the distribution of powers as well as all the other political parties by means of nasty tricks.)

But: Democracy not only means that the majority decides. It also means that the rights of minority groups are respected. In case of Yugoslavia, where the state reportedly took action against an ethnic minority, this is obviously not the case. So at least this is an argument why the current state of the Yugoslavian Federation cannot be called a democracy.

Governments like the Yugoslavian's try to justify such actions that infringe the human rights of particular groups of their populations by the argument that among these people are many supporters of violent terrorists who do not respect the democratic rules themselves. The UN Declaration of Human Rights includes that people who abuse their human rights in order to act against the democratic system lose their human rights. But this does not justify action against an ethnic group. Parts of them may support such people, but how can one say that all of them do so? There are certainly many innocent victims of such actions.

Likewise, it cannot be justified if innocent civilians get killed in a war. Offically, a war nowadays is usually motivated against a government because of crimes against humanity. But governments are practically never supported by 100% of the electorate.

Back to the actual topic: I concluded that the Yugoslavian Federation - although it is not an open dictatorship - currently is not a democratic country. But in the article I was originally referring to, another country was mentioned, Belarus. What about this one? The last official elections were a long time ago. Meanwhile the democratically elected parliament was abolished by President Lukashenko. He created a new parliament consisting only of his supporters. No date for new elections has been officially set yet, although the president announced to hold them this year. An open dictatorship? To justify his actions, the president refers to a national poll held some years ago, by which he gained more power. But can it be justified that a democratic system is ousted by means of a democratic poll?

Adok/Hugi - 15 Apr 2000