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Jump in the number of voters registering protest by casting blank or defaced ballots has Serbia’s political class worried.
About 170,000 voters, 4.3 per cent of the total, cast white ballots.
A picture of a dog fouling the names of the candidates is drawn on one ballot and a middle finger salute on another.
These are just some of the ways in which disgruntled voters registered their anger with the May 6 general, local and presidential elections.
Serbs did not cast that many so-called “white votes” – but the number has gone up markedly compared to the results of the 2008 election, provoking comment and discussion.
According to the Republican Electoral Commission, RIK, 170,000 voters, 4.3 per cent of the total, cast white ballots, twice the number in the 2008 elections.
While some say “white voters” have exercised their civic right to protest against the system, all the main political parties have united in condemning the gesture as pointless.
Much of this year’s rise in the number of white ballots is ascribed to social networks.
One new white voter was Ljilja Lacmanovic, 58, an economist. She says she has been a great believer in the participatory democracy and in elections in the past, but this time she felt she could not vote for any of the options and so cast a white ballot.
“The white ballot was my only chance to be heard and express my dissatisfaction with the current political oligarchy,” she told Balkan Insight.
Vladimir Pavicevic, a political science professor at Belgrade University, defends the use of white ballots as a non-violent way of registering one’s protest.
Those casting white ballots “respect the constitutional order and have no intention of destroying the entire system,” Pavicevic noted.
He added that the “white voters” have kept in mind the possibility of changing power through parliamentary democracy, which is why they did not choose to stay at home but to vote.
Pavicevic also noted that casting white ballots in no way affects the results. Even if 99 per cent of people cast white ballots in any one polling station, the election results of the other 1 per cent remains valid.
Disgruntled voters registered their anger with the May 6 general, local and presidential elections.
Much of this year’s rise in the number of white ballots is ascribed to social networks. As polling day continued, more and more people put up photos on social networks of their invalid ballots, many of them doing so with style and originality.
Some wrote obscenities while others added the names of super-heroes as the 13th candidate on the list for the presidential elections. Some who wanted them all to disappear wrote “Ctrl-Alt-Delete”.
“Voting for none of the above” soon became the biggest joke among Serbs on Twitter and Facebook, creating a competitive atmosphere among them, based on whose ballot would look more original.
The Facebook group for Serbia’s Anonymous compiled a photo album called “Exhibition of Ballots” with hundreds of different examples of how Serbians decorated their ballots.
The name of Dobrica Veselinovic, a 30-year old Belgrader, was one of the most commonly seen, as the 13th candidate for the post of Serbian President.
He did not undertake any action calling on people to vote for him. Instead, one of his numerous Facebook friends posted a picture of their ballot with his name on it on their wall, after which others started doing the same.
Veselinovic himself decided to cast a white ballot, as was the only way to show Serbian politicians that the system is malfunctioning.
|Serbian political parties have united in calling white ballots foolish and pointless.|
“If you can’t beat them, at least you can make fun of them and of the system,” Veselinovic told Balkan Insight.
He believes that white ballots are “the only way to show dissatisfaction and not to play according to their rules”.
Blogger Nebojsa Milenkovic cited three goals that white ballots have achieved.
“The first [goal] is denial of political legitimacy of political parties which, internally, lack any opposition, alternative ideas, vision or different opinions,” he said.
The second goal is to voice and spread dissatisfaction, initiating discussion and the possible opening up of space for new people, ideas, concepts and programmes.
“The third is articulation of an awareness that the ideas of a civil Serbia are no longer represented in Serbia,” he added.
Serbian political parties do not agree, and have united in calling the idea foolish and pointless. Dragan Djilas, the Democratic Party candidate for the post of mayor of Belgrade, said that he did not understand those who cast white ballots.
“It is better to stay at home than to go to a polling station and cast a white ballot,” Djilas told reporters after the elections.
Some of the smaller parties have blamed the “white voters“ for their poor results.
This view has been heard especially in from the ranks of the opposition Liberal Democratic Party, LDP. Liberals fear their natural voters were numerous among those who cast white ballots, depriving them of the chance to cross the election threshold and enter the Belgrade city assembly.
The LDP’s Zlatko Crnogorac, from the Belgrade cultural centre Parobrod, has only rude words for those of his Facebook friends who – in his mind – wasted their opportunity.
“If some among my friends casted a white ballot, they can unfriend themselves [from my friends’ list],” he wrote on his Facebook wall.
This spring almost 7 million Serbians are entitled to vote in presidential, general, provincial and local elections.
Since the renewal of multi-party politics in 1990 power has oscillated between a variety of parties in Serbia and votes have often followed by allegations of frauds and protests.
Twelve years after the overthrow of Slobodan Milosevic, the scene has changed significantly as parties rise, fall and change their minds. See Balkan Insight's profiles of Serbia's ruling and opposition parties.
Since the first multi-party elections were held in 1990, Serbia has often had acting heads of state, while many of those elected ended their terms before their mandates expired.
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