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Serbia: Upcoming Elections Offer Few Choices, Inspire Apathy and Humor

Much unbeknownst to most people in the world, Serbia is, in many ways, looking at its most important election since the 2000 revolutionary elections that toppled the government of Slobodan Milosevic. For months now, the quiet before yet another political storm in the Balkans has been present on the streets and in homes throughout the country. The lack of will among voters to put up with more promises of reform and progress is now almost palpable, since state, provincial and municipal elections were announced for May 6 [en] just weeks ago.

As politicians and their parties have started campaigning avidly, so have many bloggers broken their silence on this issue. What most seem to express is one form or another of apathy and whom not to vote for.

These political opinions, or lack thereof, are most often expressed on social networks these days, with many taking to Facebook and posting public notes on the subject. A young man from Novi Sad posted one such note, titled ELECTIONS. Why NOT to vote for the current government [sr], with a list of facts, including debt, inflation, unemployment, and activities of several Serbian ministries since 2008, that the current government is responsible for:

- Debt in 2008, 20.53 billion Euros, in 2012, 25.14 billion Euros
- Exchange rate in 2008, 80.3788RSD = 1€, in 2012, 111.634RSD = 1€
- Average [net] salary in 2008, 47,883RSD, in 2012, 36,639RSD (both are unrealistic amounts as average salaries of all employed citizens are counted, without those who are unemployed, while it is common knowledge that outside major cities people work for a minimum wage of 24,000RSD)
- There are 200,000 people employed by this government, while over 400,000 others have lost their jobs, although one should take into account that employment rates have been pumped up by temporary jobs, such as newsstands that employ and fire some 40 people annually, making it questionable how many jobs are actually permanently retained. [...]

The list goes on and is only one of many like it that mention the factual amounts spent by the current government and their political counterparts in the name of reform and betterment. Serbs have a tendency, due to the country’s turbulent past, to be well aware of political and economic matters and many are just as well informed when it comes to the European and global economies and political situations.

One of Serbia’s most popular bloggers, whom we have quoted here before, also calls attention to unemployment and other political and economic failures of the past four years in a text titled Jobs Are Out There Waiting, Just As Soon As Elections Are Over [sr]. Mahlat bases this particular blog post on the campaign promises of over a dozen political parties taking part in the upcoming elections that are all highly focused on raising employment and lowering national debt, but also includes comparison and contrast to EU countries:

During this pre-election time, we could open hundreds of topics related to the hundreds of issues that this country is realistically faced with, but I am most touched, irritated and flabbergasted by the matter of employment, the large number of those unemployed, the rising unemployment rate and, of course, the de-partisation of that.

Serbia has the same problem that all the countries in Europe have – lowered number of jobs, large unemployment rates among young people that is on the rise each year, pregnant women losing their jobs, the problem of mothers with small children finding employment…

The crisis that began in 2008 is still current. The unemployment rate in the Euro Zone is at 21%… The Institute for Statistics of the Republic of Serbia reported in January that the unemployment rate in Serbia was at 23.7% at the end of November of 2011. [...]

What we are battling is equal to the battle in EU countries – with rising unemployment trends. And everyone claims that they have issues with inadequate training among employees, that there should be reforms in the education system, that there are no real programs for employing the young. [...]

After a set of comparisons and contrasts to European statistics and mentions of campaign employment promises, Mahlat concludes:

If you’ve come this far [in reading], it must be clear to you by now that we have the same issues and that jobs won’t appear even with the help of a magic trick, so I ask those comrades who are promising them to turn to stabilizing the nation so that they can then speak of creating jobs. And to come out with a plan. How? When? They must have some idea of this?

Because if they keep promising to give what they don’t have, we won’t budge from this dead spot. Serbia has to work.

Serbia shares the fate of Europe, to which it territorially belongs, is economically bound, so don’t go hollering about handing out gifts that you don’t have to give.

In conclusion – according to the Institute for Statistics of the Republic of Serbia, in November 2011 there were 691,841 unemployed older that 15, 2,224,508 employed, as well as 3,377,510 inactive.

I’m supposing I belong to those 3,377,510.

I want to be active. I don’t expect gifts, but rather an opportunity.

Who’s offering?

Although many of the political parties running in this year’s election and their candidates have become active on social networks in recent months and, particularly, weeks – those writing online independently of any party or campaign don’t seem to be showing support for any of the choices on the ballots. In fact, most are writing against voting for someone. Many, as Mahlat mentions in her blog post, note the uncanny similarities of all the parties’ campaigns, platforms and promises. One blogger puts it all in one short blog post titled Promises, promises… [sr]:

You’ll be better off voting for us…

Said the representatives of every single party in Serbia in the past few days…

I don’t want it to be better for me… Having it good would be quite enough… You know the gradation – Good – Better – Best… Since I have it BAD now, I want it to be good. Better is the next step after that… I can’t recall if there’s anything they haven’t promised.

How are they not ashamed, they themselves know how much they’re lying and I’m sure the people are aware of all this…

[...]

The voter apathy is as apparent in other texts as it is in this one. On the other hand, Serbs have often shown in the past that they have a good sense of humor, even in the darkest of times, and seem to be showing it again. Many blogs jest with the upcoming elections, while some ridicule the candidates. One blogger has written a series of posts titled Elections 2012 [sr], in which he describes some of the candidates and their parties in a satirical tone, then adorns his texts with photos to boot:

"And the third little piggy… made his house from concrete" – feat. Ivica Dacic, current Minister of Internal Affairs and presidential candidate. Image courtesy of Vujaklija.com, Serbia's premier user-generated online dictionary of slang (used with permission).

(Other images in this post include this one of the “Preokret” coalition partners Vuk Draskovic (SPO) and Cedomir Jovanovic (LDP) in Jedi mode, and this one of Vojislav Kostunica, once hailed as the revolutionary of the decade, now often compared to Hans Moleman from The Simpsons.

While most have taken to serious criticism or outright ridicule of the candidates and elections in general, some have started calling for an organized and obvious boycott of the May 6 elections. Horizont blog [sr] and others have reposted and written about a Facebook group called “Project: Citizens have the power – 99% of Serbia” [sr], which is openly calling for boycott, even recommending options that voters have for boycotting:

[...] 1. Empty ballot
2. Invalid ballot
3. Abstinence

Option 1 can easily be abused as politically affiliated members can fill empty ballots in while counting ballots.

Options 2 and 3 are solid choices. If voter turn-out is very low, then this low turn-out and a large number of “creative drawings” logic and common sense would suggest that after the elections we question whether or not the existing political options have any LEGITIMACY in the eyes of the people. We remind you that the election laws and the Constitution allow for elections to be LEGAL even if a mere 100,000 voters vote.

A new option for those who are sick of all the existing political options is the following:

TAKE YOUR BALLOT FROM YOUR POLLING STATION WITH YOU

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