In our case the focus is actually a sexual affair. Whether it happened or didn't happen, and what exactly happened, remains outside the grasp of the public and probably of a significant number of characters in the event itself.
The bile which poured forth at the session of the main board of Socialdemocracy far exceeded the significance of the question whether someone grabbed someone's rear end in the dark, even though women's rights activists are not predisposed to underestimate the importance of this problem. Basically it looked like a classic showdown of the kind we are used to; the only new thing was the terrain on which the action unfolded. The leader of Socialdemocracy, in the end, remained in his position by a majority vote. Does that mean he's innocent?
It only means that those who initiated the whole operation should have put a little more effort into proving his guilt, if for no other reason then because of the women on whose behalf they began this whole thing. This result has left them in an intolerable position. Like so many times before, it has been demonstrated that amateurs are very dangerous in politics.
In defense of the honor of the attackers (that's the kind of attackers they are; someone has to defend them) it should be said that they really don't look like a collection of bums ready to do run a big smear campaign against someone just to get rid of him as the head of the party. Then again, their numbers aren't exactly insignificant - almost all the Serbian parliamentary deputies of Socialdemocracy, plus two Yugoslav parliamentary deputies, plus a Yugoslav minister - oppose Obradovic. And that's the very weird thing. What kind of a split is this? All the deputies believe that Obradovic has gone astray; all the "nondeputies" don't believe it.
All things considered, there are three possibilities:
The existing situation is as follows: four female members of Socialdemocracy have made written statements that they were sexually harassed by the head of the party; however, so far only Ljiljana Nestorovic, the spokeswoman of SD, has taken on the unpleasant task of outlining in greater detail what exactly happened and how and thus offered the citizens of Serbia the opportunity to judge for themselves whether the threshold had been crossed. After everything, she couldn't have felt satisfied in any way. "The session of the main board was one of the most unpleasant events in my life. In the end I came to believe that this is, after all, the Balkans and that a woman to many a local man has the value of a pack of cigarettes or a bottle of beer," she said.
Nestorovic claimed that many other reporters have been the dark object of Obradovic's desire. Nevertheless, none of them have come forward to confirm this.
All in all, if we take into account the rationale of the group against Obradovic which, as we have already noted, consists of almost all the deputies and the majority of the presidency of that party, then we would also have to believe that an agreement with Obradovic had been concluded within the party for his quiet withdrawal, in their mutual interest, to avoid scandal as a result of his deviant behavior, which had grown worse and could no longer be tolerated. So much for possibility A.
The possibility B assumes that the accusation of harassment is just a so-so opportunity to initiate a relentless attack and get rid of Obradovic. Why? Ah, that's where the political thriller begins. Vuk Obradovic is, namely, the head of the extremely important government team that determines industrial abuses and corruption; his report will be important in determining the wealthiest of the wealthy (200-300 names, according to Prime Minister Zoran Djindjic) who need to pay the a one-time tax due to the fact that they became wealthy under suspicious circumstances during the Milosevic era.
Karic's denials were in reference to an article in "Politika Ekspres", which brought him into the whole story by claiming that Vuk Obradovic, allegedly, may have set too high a membership fee for inclusion in the honor society; that fee, by way of reminder, can get as high as 90 percent of illegally acquired property. Rumors also mention the names of a few others who are acknowledged among us, and not only among us, to be quite wealthy. In defense of Karic, let us say that his BK Television correctly reported the misfortunes within the party that is, so to speak, a part of the family.
In his anti-corruption zeal, Obradovic could have gone so far as to include, for example, Dusan Mihajlovic, the current minister of internal affairs, on the list. Obradovic himself allegedly sought the protection of President Kostunica because his Eliott Ness-like incorruptibility is a thorn in the side not only of Mihajlovic but also of Zoran Djindjic, who did say in the last issue of NIN that he could hardly wait for the campaign against the new rich to be over already.
Nevertheless, Obradovic later advised that the had "forwarded information" to Kostunica, Djindjic and Dusan Mihajlovic, denied initial information that he had marked the latter two as the initiators of his misfortunes.
He also denied the role of BK in the affair. "I have spoken with people from that house and I believe that they are not involved in this. However, this is connected with the Committee for Abuses," said Obradovic, accusing some of the women who are accusing him of harassment of being "bought".
The other side also claims that the Karics are innocent. "You will no find Bogoljub Karic nor any of the leaders of the DOS behind this. Simply, we wished to support our female coworkers from the party," said Aleksandar Jeftic, an (expelled) member of the presidency of Socialdemocracy. Jeftic also reminded of bad relations with Bogoljub Karic that everyone who left BK Television took with him, including Slobodan Orlic, the deputy president, and Ljiljana Nestorovic, formerly a reporter for that television station.
Finally, the third possibility assumes that Vuk Obradovic in his efforts to find his way to a woman's heart really did look for a shortcut but that this is only an excuse used by dark forces to get the upper hand on the retired general who has been threatening a crusade against corruption for some time. This possibility assumes that a large number of those involved in this project truly believe that its essence is in the battle against harassment.
The very technique of the showdown - let us consider it for a moment only as a political conflict regardless of the subject of the conflict - has shown Socialdemocracy in poor light. Arguments in front of the camera, crying women who were called "whores" by their party colleagues, mutual accusations of violating the statute with obligatory mutual expulsion from the party, have reduced the European image, which Socialdemocracy sought to nurture, to ashes and dust. The split within the party has demonstrated that on the one hand is the party elite - the deputies and officials - while on the other is the party infantry, which has remained true to Vuk Obradovic. Therefore, all Vuk Obradovic needed to do was to gain a day in order to carry out mobilization and the battle was won, a tactic that even a captain, let alone a general, could have followed through. It is interesting that even those members who support Vuk Obradovic did not do so because they are convinced in the propriety of his sexual behavior; they simply expressed support for the president in a case where they believed something was going on behind their backs. They will wait for a procedure to determine whether in fact "anything happened" or not, as it follows from the statement of the member of the main board, Danilo Kadijevic.
The consequences for the anti-corruption commission could be fatal. It will take weeks to consolidate it and Prime Minister Djindjic, as we said before, did not see it lasting long anyway. "This is not a putsch against the commission. That is a story manufactured by Obradovic and we believe that the commission should continue with its work. We believe that position should still go to someone from Socialdemocracy," says Slobodan Orlic. By Socialdemocracy, he means his faction which was expelled from the party by the main board.
In addition to political damage, cultural damage has ensued as well. It is as if the case were an example for every employed woman as to what can happen if she complains about sexual harassment. The statement of Socialist deputy Bata Zivojinovic is interesting: "I would have done the same thing if I was younger." Even the women haven't displayed the expected degree of solidarity.
All things considered, at the moment it is difficult to imagine a result other than Vuk Obradovic's removal from ruling political circles. Unusual maneuvers: they accuse him; he defends himself successfully; but nevertheless, he must go. Those are the rules of the game. The system works.