Disillusioned Serbian voters back satirist in presidential race

Disillusioned Serbian voters back satirist in presidential race
By bne IntelliNews March 14, 2017

Satirist Ljubisa Preletacevic, backed by the Beli-Hit it Hard citizens group, has been registered as a candidate for Serbia’s April 2 presidential elections, the Republican Electoral Commission (RIK) declared on March 13. 

Preletacevic’s chances of winning the elections are non-existent and his success in gathering enough signatures to register shows that people are fed up with not having a real alternative to Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, whose victory seems a foregone conclusion. The lack of unity among the opposition means Vucic could win outright in the first round of voting, but it could also bring protest votes to Preletacevic.

The satirist’s supporters managed to collect the 10,000 signatures he needed to register in just 24 hours, even though they didn’t have any infrastructure behind them, as calls for him to become a candidate went viral. 

Preletacevic is actually 26-year old Luka Maksimovic from Mladenovac, near Belgrade. The name Preletacevic comes from the world “preletaci”, meaning “those who fly over” in Serbian, a word used to refer to the frequent defections between parties by numerous politicians in Serbia. 

Initially, he was the leader and founder of parody political party “Sarmu probo nisi”, which translates as “You didn’t try cabbage rolls” - sarma is traditional Serbian winter food made of meat rolled in pickled cabbage. 

The name of the movement comes from the lyrics to one of the most bizarre Serbian folk songs: “the dog is barking and I think you are coming but you left and didn’t try my sarma”. The song describes an unhappy love affair and woman who expects her man to come back but also regrets that he left hungry without tasting her cabbage rolls.

The parody party was founded before the 2016 local elections, when it took 12 seats in the Mladenovac local assembly. As the party wasn’t registered officially, it participated as an independent list, Beli-Hit it Hard.

Beli which means “white” in Serbian comes from Preletacevic’s dress and appearance. During the local election campaign, he wore a white suit and rode a white horse in a parody of real politicians' attempts to impress voters.

On March 13, RIK also declared three more presidential candidates; the president of the western municipality of Cajetina Milan Stamatovic, People’s Libertarian Movement candidate Miroslav Parovic and the leader of the regional League of Vojvodina’s Social-Democrats Nenad Canak.

Previously, seven other candidacies were declared by RIK, including Vucic and the two main opposition candidates - former ombudsman Sasa Jankovic and former Minister of Foreign Affairs Vuk Jeremic. Either Jankovic or Jeremic was seen as the opposition's best chance against Vucic, but neither of the two candidates is willing to step down and support the other, leaving the field free for the prime minister. 

Also running for president are the leader of the far-right Serbian Radical Party Vojislav Seselj, fellow far right politicians Bosko Obradovic and Aleksandar Popovic, and the leader of the left-wing parliamentary movement Enough is Enough Sasa Radulovic.