On Transitions: The Year Past and the Year Ahead

As we look forward to 2014 and so anticipate another year of major political changes, it’s important to reflect on the tenuous nature of change itself. That is to say, transitions from authoritarianism are rarely smooth and revolutions often “eat their young.”

This, in fact, is exactly what is happening in Egypt, the Christian

Science Monitor reports. As the young activists who led the popular revolt against Mubarak are being summarily imprisoned and assassinated by the military in the name of “law and order,” members of the deposed Muslim Brotherhood are increasingly transforming themselves into a guerrilla army. As Tom Perry writes, “[the] most populous Arab country enters the new year with deeper divisions in its society and more bloodshed on its streets than at any point in its modern history. The prospects for democracy appear bleaker with every bomb blast and arrest.” The streets are once again being transformed from spaces of potential, to spaces of repression.

Meanwhile, in the Balkans, the specter of the Yugoslav dissolution still haunts. In a voluminous series of reports, Balkan Insight reports on the massive sums expended by the post-Yugoslav states in defending war crimes suspects at the ICTY. Despite a professed turn towards embracing global human rights norms and reconciliation, governments across the region remain invested in “rehabilitating” the individuals and seemingly the broader campaigns that so violently undid the former Federation.

Little wonder either, considering that the most powerful man in Serbia, at least, is a former ultra-nationalist, who now pursues an “anti-corruption crusade” with the same vigor with which he once pursued the dream (nightmare) of “Greater Serbia.” Only that in becoming a darling of the European establishment, Aleksandar Vucic never did quite repudiate his past self.

Across the region, as The Economist writes, the coming year promises to be one of contestation though with elections expected in both Serbia and Bosnia-Herzegovina. In the case of BiH, however, this expectation remains tenuous: with no solution(s) in sight to the “Sejdic-Finci” impasse, the EU promise of not recognizing the elections looms large. Meanwhile, as the fallout of Croatia’s same-sex marriage referendum continues, as do tensions with the Serb community, the promise of genuine democratic consolidation though EU membership appears to be an axiom in doubt.

In short, the directions of both the greater Middle East and the Balkans in 2014 depend greatly on the emergence of new political actors and their ability to resist the repression of the old guards. Unless this occurs, the old regimes and their tendencies will be a long time dissolving yet.

— Jasmin Mujanović | @JasminMuj