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News 15 Mar 17

Satirist Keeps his Place in Serbia's Presidential Race

Fans of spoof politician Ljubisa Preletacevic – Beli are thrilled that attempts to block him from standing in Serbia's upcoming presidential election have as yet come to nothing.

Natalia Zaba
BIRN
Belgrade
The 'Beli Hit it hard' team with Luka Maksimovic on the horse, photo: on courtesy of the group

Despite the fact that Serbia's Electoral Commission, RIK, has rejected a complaint against the presidential candidacy of spoof character Ljubisa Preletacevic - Beli, confirming his bid on Tuesday, supporters of the now well-known satirist still fear his campaign might be overturned.

Pavle Dimitrijevic, from CRTA, an NGO monitoring the election race, told TV N1 that the complaints about Beli’s bid could still be brought before the Administrative Court, which could then dismiss his candidacy.

On Monday, RIK members spent hours debating whether Beli's documentation, with almost 13,000 signatures of supporters, was complete.

According to some, the name of the citizens' group backing him, "Beli, Hit it Hard," was missing from Beli's endorsement documents, meaning they were invalid.

The discussion of the case in the RIK become an instant sensation in Serbia's social media, with 390,000 people watching a live stream of the RIK meeting.

After hours of disputes, the RIK dropped the idea of ordering him to collect at least 10,000 signatures of supporters once again and accepted him as a presidential candidate.

But a day later, a lawyer from Novi Sad, Miroje Jovanovic, filed another complaint asking the RIK to dismiss Beli, which the RIK eventually rejected.

After his candidacy was accepted, the comedian resorted to his trademark folksy style on his Facebook profile.

"Uncle loves you! Didn't I tell you that everything would be just fine, no worries," he wrote.

"How could your five hours of waiting in lines [in order to leave signatures of support for Beli's candidacy] be in vain? Now we hit it hard, we spread love and joy in woollen socks," Preletacevic wrote.

Ljubisa Preletacevic - Beli, a spoof personality "played" by Luka Maksimovic, is a deliberate caricature of the very worst type of Serbian politician.

He comes complete with fake university diploma, wealth that is unaccounted for and a tendency to make empty populist promises to win votes. And all that while wearing his trademark all-white suit.

Last year, after the local elections in April, the spoof political group unexpectedly came second in Mladenovac, one of 17 municipalities in the Belgrade City Assembly. The suprise showing launched Beli as an instant celebrity.

With 20 per cent of the vote, the "Hit it Hard – Beli" group came second only to the local branch of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party.

He then decided to go further and run for the president, turning up at the RIK office on March 12 in a white limousine and with an escort of Serbian traditional trumpeters, who normally play on weddings, funerals and birthdays.

"The support people are showing us is unbelievable," a supporter said, adding that people greet Preletacevic on the streets just like they used to greet former Yugoslav leader Josip Broz Tito.

Vladimir Gajic, a member of the RIK, told N1 that Beli represents a revolt against the political establishment, which could help the opposition in the race, by engaging more people to vote.

“The appearance of Beli is part of a global trend, a rebellion and resistance to current political establishments," he said. 

According to most polls, the Prime Minister and leader of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party, Aleksandar Vucic, is likely to win the race to become Serbia's next head of state.

 

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