Plague of pollsters

Here’s an interesting analysis of the political situation in Serbia from the FT’s Quentin Peel.  This is in the context of what had looked like a good result for the Boris Tadic (president) alliance with their 38% vote share — but with a rival alliance of Radicals, Socialists (former Milosevic) and a group linked to Vojislav Kostunica (PM) inching close to a coalition.  Peel looks specifically at the EU decision to offer an Association agreement to Serbia during the campaign — a transparently political gambit.  It seems that the deal was clinched by evidence from US pollsters —


Mr Tadic’s envoys had toured the EU capitals in advance, earnestly pleading for the SAA to be passed. They cited private polling figures – produced by Greenlan Quinlan Rosner, the leading US political analysts – that warned of a clear Radical victory unless the president’s party could show progress in Brussels.

“It could make a significant difference to the race if Serbia is able to sign the SAA prior to the election,” the pollsters said. A 66 per cent majority of Serbs approved the idea, they said, and the EU was seen as growing steadily more popular, even though most members supported the independence of Kosovo.

Of course proving cause-and-effect is difficult but at the very least the EU side probably wanted some evidence for their plunge.  Despite its apparent payoff, it now looks like a distinctly awkward decision if the outcome is the EU dealing with a government that it tried to forestall.  Perhaps the mandarins will take the position that Serbia will need to see the futility of pursuing the hardline approach vis-a-vis Kosovo and the war crimes suspects.  But maybe the word of American pollsters on the mood of European electorates shouldn’t be taken as gospel the next time.