I was fortunate to be in Belgrade the week of the presidential elections and curiously almost met the President. We ran into his political rally in Republic Square, were pumped up by various pop classics on the PA, followed by a brass band. During the various warm-ups speeches on health, economy and foreign affairs (which basically involved shouting ‘we will never give up Kosovo’ at the end of every paragraph), we realised Boris was standing about 20 metres away sparring like a boxer. Finally he went up and gave a speech promising economic growth, EU membership and never, never, never giving up Kosovo. The fact that EU membership is only possible by giving up Kosovo is ignored.
Serbians are a gregarious group and keen to talk politics. Some nations are but here you suspect it stems from economic hardship (every Serb seems to be able to quote the average wage) and the feeling they have been on the wrong end of a lot of political maneuvering over the past two decades, an opinion sometimes vindicated by a better understanding of the Balkan and Kosovan wars.
Tadic and his opponent have different histories and represent different communities but essentially understand policy choices are limited. The closeness and lack of clarity in the election reflects the frustration with Tadic and the choices in general. 14 candidates stood and no one got more than 26% of the vote. With 24% unemployment, no candidate has a real answer.
Serbian politics maybe depressing familiar to many European voters but that’s nothing compared to the impasse in Bosnia which I will write about soon.