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Sunday, 16 October 2011

Serbia's election campaign "played role in canceling of gay parade"

Pic: Jonathan Davis
By Paul Canning

A week after the Serbian government announced that Belgrade Pride Parade was banned following threats of mass, violent counter-demonstrations organised by nationalists and fanatical Christian Orthodox supporters, four prominent Belgrade-based journalists took part in a talk show organised by the liberal, independent channel B92.

All of them agreed that the ban was about politics and upcoming elections.

The Editor of Novi Standard, Željko Cvijanović, pointed out that a large majority of Serbians oppose the Parade. According to a study by the World Values Survey (WVS) and the Gallup Balkan Monitor, Serbians are the most prejudiced against LGBT in South-Eastern Europe - 80% oppose 'all forms of expression of homosexual orientation'.

Writing for riskandforecast.com, Political Capital explains why:

"Economic backwardness, gaping social/economic inequality, the post-Communist legacy and religion are major factors and strong predictors of hostility towards homosexuals."

Said Cvijanović of the 2011 Parade ban:

"The citizens have defeated their political class, which for the first time in the past three years demonstrated that it was afraid of the citizens, and I think that's a victory of sorts."

Political Capital says that that political class' attitude to homophobia is a major stumbling block on the road to the European Union.

"Accordingly, when trying to navigate down that road the governing political elite must demonstrate its tolerance of sexual minorities, while the public in these very same countries is fanatically and often aggressively intolerant of homosexuals, of their “exhibitionist” parades and rejects the extension of civil rights. However, this often limits the political elite’s scope for action on this issue and leads to a unique double-talk. Politicians are required to show open-mindedness to the outside to demonstrate having done their “homework” on rights issues while, fearing a popular backlash (reflected at the polls), internally they handle the issue more gingerly."

The Editor of the liberal weekly news magazine Vreme, Dragoljub Žarković, noted that the society was "only capable of organizing itself when some minority group needed to be belittled and threated to be beaten".

"Where's serious rebellion - a rebellion of the citizens against bad living?" Žarković asked. "They're not standing up against the low standard, against being left without apartments, ripped off by the banks, against living worse each day, instead, we're standing up against what - a tiny group of 300 to 400 people who would probably have taken a completely peaceful walk."

Editor of the weekly NIN, Nebojša Spaić. noted that:

"One of the reasons for canceling the Pride Parade was what is appearing in other socials segments and in other ways, and that is the utter inability of the authorities to deal with any real problem, and constant manufacturing of balloons of media lies and Potemkin villages, while the essential problem of this government is that it has no substance, no ideology."

[A 'Potemkin village, based on the Stalinist trick for Western visitors in the 1930s, is 'an impressive facade or show designed to hide an undesirable fact or condition'.]

Journalists Union head Ljiljana Smajlović said that, unlike last year when the Parade took place in the midst of a mass riot and injuries to 100 policeman and Serbia was praised by EU governments as a result, this year the government had an eye on elections.

"This year the authorities decided it was more profitable to let the U.S. embassy and Brussels get angry, but to avoid irritating that majority," she said.
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