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Nationalists and Populists in Serbia and Macedonia Celebrate Trump's Victory

Widely shared photo-montage by unknown author presenting Donald Trump as a Crusader carrying the old Macedonian flag.

Widely shared photo montage by unknown author presenting Donald Trump as a God-sent crusader carrying the old Macedonian flag.

Donald Trump's victory in the US presidential elections caused ecstatic reactions among right-wing politicians and their adherents in several Balkan countries.

There are various reasons for such reactions, from a general loathing of the Clintons, to a sense of solidarity with American right-wingers, to a perception of a shared anti-Islam stance with Trump. In addition, the public opinion in these countries is increasingly under the influence of Russian propaganda, which had favored his victory.

In Serbia, widespread perception of Trump is based on the notion that ‘the enemy of my enemy is my friend.’ Being an opponent to the Clintons, who are blamed for the bombings during the 1998-99 Kosovo War, as well as the other NATO interventions during the Yugoslav Wars, made Trump the favorite among right-wing nationalist politicians like Vojislav Šešelj of the far-right Serbian Radical Party.

The morning after the US elections, the editor of Informer, a pro-government tabloid in Serbia, announced they'd put up a billboard congratulating Trump in Belgrade reading, “We congratulate! Trump, you the Serb!”.

Here we are, in the streets :)))

Informer is considered very close to the government of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, and had been involved in ‘media lynchings’ — smear campaigns and issuing threats against investigative journalists who had revealed cases of high-level corruption.

The news site Balkan Insight reported that on the other side of Serbia's borders, in Kosovo and Bosnia and Herzegovina, “many Albanians and Bosniaks are lamenting the defeat of Hillary Clinton.”

Like elsewhere in the world, Macedonian social networks were also full of comments about the results of the US elections. Twitter user Srbak commented on the cognitive dissonance of blaming the Clintons while disregarding the consequences of the actions of the late authoritarian leader Slobodan Milošević.

- Dumb
– Dumber
– Hillary is to blame because Serbia was ruled by a monster guilty of genocide and violation of all human rights.

Macedonian politicians generally provided restrained official statements about all candidates. However, many members of the ruling party, the right-wing VMRO-DPMNE, showed joy about the victory of the Republicans in the US, whom they consider allies and supporters. Many relayed a screenshot from a Facebook post by party official Antonijo Milošoski, a member of parliament and former minister of foreign affairs. In it, he changed the acronym VMRO, meaning Internal Macedonian Revolutionary Organization, by replacing the word “Revolutionary” with “Republican.”

In honor of Trump's victory, Milošoski “renamed” the VMRO-DPMNE!

There were many other Photoshop works. One of the more extreme examples (see the image at the top of the post) presented Trump as a crusading Knight Templar (fighting Muslims) sent by God (representing traditional family values) waving the 1992-95 Macedonian flag with the Vergina Sun (representing continuity of the Macedonian nation from the time of Alexander the Great).

Many discussions talked of the right-wing victory in the US in relation to Macedonia's upcoming elections in December, in a tone similar to the gloating about the Brexit. On the other hand, some also noted that the American people voted against the status quo, which translated into the Macedonian context would mean a defeat of the right-wingers.

Alternative news portal Okno.mk relayed an observation by influential social media user Slobodan Jakjoski:

Би рекол дека тие што не ја разбираат победата на Трамп и импликациите врз светот, Балканот и нас не го сфаќаат духот на времето.

Сржта на проблемот е што либералната демократија од финансиски неолиберален тип не функционира. На глобално ниво. Не функционира, затоа што и тој економски раст што го испорачува се редистрибуира крајно нееднакво. Незадоволниците од овој систем со право бараат суштински промени.

Тие промени, секако, им ги нудат десничарски демагози и популисти во вид на едноставни решенија („ќе изградам ѕид, ќе забранам влез на муслимани, ќе излеземе од ЕУ“).

Нашиот случај е различен бидејќи тој систем кај нас ВЕЌЕ е крахиран, веќе краткото искуство со либералната демократија е доживеано како целосен неуспех и веќе 10 години владеат десничарски популисти кои на огромен дел од населението му испорачуваат едноставни решенија за егзистенцијалните проблеми.

Да, зборувам за клиентелистичкиот систем на ВМРО. Ако мислите дека вработениот во администрација после години невработеност НЕ ЗНАЕ за фактот дека некого утепала полиција и се обидела да скрие, дека државата безочно се краде, дека УБК прислушкува и снима сè живо и диво, тогаш се лажете.

Многу добро знаат. Но, кога егзистенцијата ти е доведена во прашање, ќе замижеш пред секакви неправди и ќе си рационализираш дека оние што се осмелуваат да ти го нарушаат ресурсниот раат се предавници, комуњари, исти… или на крајот на краиштата, не се замараш со политика.

I would say that those who do not understand Trump's victory and its implications for the world, the Balkans and us [Macedonia] fail to grasp the spirit of the times.

The essence of the problem is that liberal democracy of the financially neo-liberal type does not function. At a global level. It doesn't function because the economic growth it produces is distributed unequally. Those dissatisfied with this system have the right to demand essential changes.

Such changes are offered to them by the right-wing demagogues in the form of simple solutions (“I'll build a wall; I'll forbid Muslims’ entry; we'll exit the European Union”).

The Macedonian case is different because that system had already crashed here. The short experience with liberal democracy is perceived as total failure, leading to 10-year rule of right-wing populists who provide simple solutions for the existential problems of a large part of the population.

Yes, I refer to the VMRO's system of clientelism. If you think that a person employed within the bloated state administration after years of unemployment doesn't know about the fact that the police killed someone and attempted a cover-up, that there's uninhibited robbery of state resources, that the secret police conducts omnipresent illegal surveillance, you deceive yourself.

They all know, full well. But when your livelihood is in question, then you shut your eyes to all kinds of injustice and rationalize that those who dare to challenge this spoils system are traitors, Commies, etc… And as a last resort, they declare that ‘they are not interested in politics.’

Meanwhile, in Slovenia, some of the former compatriots of Trump's spouse Melania organized a celebration in a pub in her hometown of Sevnica. This celebration did not seem to have an ideological background, except for local patriotism.

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