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News 26 Dec 17

Serbian Top 7 Untrue Political Statements Made in 2017

As Serbian politicians make promises very easily and just love to give statements, Istinomer brings you the top seven false claims made in 2017. 

Maja Zivanovic

Vucic is still criticized for not reveling who was behind the Savamala demolitions in 2016. Photo: Beta 

Milka Domanovic, from the Serbian fact-checking website Istinomer, has selected the top seven untrue claims made by Serbian politicians in 2017.

The Istinomer team give various grades to evaluate the truthfulness of publicly-made statements, and on this occasion it has selected those with the highest marks for untruthfulness, and those that are so untrue they are ridiculous, called “short legs”.

1. Vucic: “The constitutional task of the president of the state is to control the government” (Grade: short legs)

Milka Domanovic from Istinomer noted that Aleksandar Vucic’s move from prime minister to president following the presidential elections in 2017 meant he now has a more ceremonial role, rather than directly controlling government.

Vucic said on March 6 that there had been a rise in VAT collection and announced that public sector pensions and salaries would increase. He said that there was room for investment in hospitals, schools and roads. In that context, he said that as president he would control the government and that it is "the constitutional job of the president".

“In order to prove that the president can legally influence the government, Vucic stated before the elections that the constitutional work of the president of the state is to control the government. However, there is no basis for this either in the constitution or in the Law on the President, where the competencies of the president of the state are clearly outlined, and where there is no mention of government control,” Domanovic explained.

 2. Vucic: “I told the truth about Savamala the first day” (Grade: untrue)

Vucic told Serbian media in February that he told the truth about the overnight demolition in the Savamala district of Belgrade in April 2016 immediately, and that it was clear that someone from the city was behind this action.

Masked people demolished buildings, presumably to make way for construction of the controversial government-backed Belgrade Waterfront project.

He added that he would not criticise anyone if the demolition had taken place during the day.

“Since Istinomer carefully followed this issue, we determined that Vucic only stated about a month and a half after the demolition, and after a great pressure from the public, at a press conference on June 9, 2016 that the city leaders were behind the demolition,” Domanovic said, adding that before then Vucic had not provided any specific details.

“Even today, a year and a half after the demolition, we do not know who was responsible for the Savamala affair, who conducted it, and who ordered the demolition, nor who is responsible for the fact that the police did not go to the scene after citizens called them, this Vucic statement also qualifies as one of the greatest untruths in 2017”.

3. Maja Gojkovic: “Parliament never worked during [presidential] campaigns” (Grade: untrue)

The Serbian Parliament speaker, Maja Gojkovic, told the public broadcaster RTS on March 2 that parliament did not work during the presidential campaign.

In order for the parliamentary elections to be called, Serbian parliament needs to be dissolved, but in the case of presidential elections, parliament continues its work.

“However, an example from 2004 when the assembly worked all the time during the [presidential] campaign proves the opposite,” Milka Domanovic told BIRN.

She recalled that later even Vucic and the head of his party’s MP group - the Serbian Progressive Party MP’s group - Aleksandar Martinovic, also wrongly claimed that the assembly never holds sessions at the time of a presidential election.

4. Zorana Mihajlovic: “200 kilometres more highway [built] in three years” (Grade: untrue)

The Serbian Minister of Construction told RTS on July 26 that Serbia then had an additional 200 kilometres of highway than three years ago.

However, according to the information Istinomer got from the same ministry, Serbia had only 123.5 kilometres of new highway between 2014 and the first half of 2017.

“Even if we count a section from [Serbian cities] Pirot to Dimitrovgrad at the length of 30 kilometres, which was put into traffic [use] in September this year [two months after the announcement], the sum is still not 200 kilometres, but 153.5,” Domanovic pointed out.

5. Siniša Mali: “Funds for [giant] flagpole from surplus to budget” (Grade: untrue)

Belgrade Mayor Mali announced in June that the Belgrade authorities would install one of the world’s tallest flagpoles to fly a huge Serbian flag and added the money for this project would be taken from the budget surplus.

“However, it turned out that there is no surplus in the budget, as the budget deficit actually increased from 5.5 to 7.5 billion dinars [from 45 million to 62 million euros],” Domanovic said, who further clarified that while it is true that budget revenues increased, the deficit also increased because city authorities planned to spend more.

6. Aleksandar Martinovic: “Most reports about Vucic are negative” (Grade: untrue)

The head of the Progressive MP’s group said this during an interview for the regional public broadcaster RTV on April 18 and, according to Istinomer, it is the oft-repeated line from various officials from Vucic’s ruling Progressives – that Vucic was not treated well by certain television stations during the presidential campaign.

“When we look at this entire survey and the total sample of six television stations, we can see that Vucic had only slightly more than 10 minutes of negative coverage compared to 353 [minutes of] positive [coverage] in the central newscasts of these stations during the election campaign,” Domanovic said.

She added that blurring the wider picture by revealing only selected data is a common tactic used by Serbian politicians.

7. Aleksandar Vulin: “No one has said that I have lied” (Grade: short legs)

“No one has said that I have lied [about] anything I said, someone likes my sharpness, someone does not like it, but no one has questioned what I said,” the Serbian Defence Minister was quoted as saying by the daily newspaper Danas on June 30, after critics claimed he was not competent to be appointed defence minister.

“In this case, it was relatively easy to evaluate Minister Vulin, since 50 per cent of his previously given statements we analysed were "short legs",” said Domanovic, explaining that he has been already been accused of and found to have made so many false statements previously.

This article was published in BIRN's bi-weekly newspaper Belgrade Insight. Here is where to find a copy.



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