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Serbia: Rivals Sling Mud As Vote Draws Near

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By Bojana Barlovac

Ahead of the May 6 elections, Serbia’s Democrats and Progressives are busily engaging in unscrupulous negative campaigning.

Serbia’s ruling Democrats are distributing flyers featuring contradictory statements by Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the main opposition Serbian Progressive Party, in the increasingly personal war of words between the parties.

Under the title “All the frauds of Tomislav Nikolic,” the flyers highight several contradictory statements culled from his 22-year-long political career.

These include one from 2008 in which he said, “Serbs will not go there [The Hague Tribunal] any longer”, and then another from 2010 in which he said, “I will fullfil all the country’s obligations towards the Tribunal [if elected president].”

A similar thing has been done with a TV advert, with a screen split into two parts – one with Nikolic’s quotes from the past and the other with recent quotes on the same issues but with totally opposite views.

Immediately after, the Progressives struck back with a video showing President Boris Tadic, leader of the Democrats, toasting his party’s allies with champagne. The words read, “They live well now, but you?”

According to the latest poll by the agency Faktor Plus, some 35.5 per cent of people say they intend to vote for the Progressives while 28.3 per cent support the Democrats.

The parties have also taken their contest to posters in the streets. The Progressives have put up one showing Belgrade Mayor Dragan Djilas, tycoon Miroslav Miskovic and Mladjan Dinkic, leader of United Regions of Serbia. The wording reads: “They are the true Godfathers.”

The Democrats, on the other hand, have put up posters with Nikolic’s shirt’s beneath Vojislav Seselj’s head, asking: “Is this the real Toma?” [Nickname of Tomislav Nikolic].

Seselj is the leader of the Serbian Radical Party, currently on trial in The Hague and Nikolic was a close political ally until October 2008.

Djordje Vukovic, programme director at CeSID, the Center for free elections and democracy, says the campaign is becoming highly negative but there is nothing to be done about it.

“No state institution can ban it [the campaign],” Vukovic said.

Balkan Insight

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (fornerkt the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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