The election is over, long live the election!
This very moment, the opposition should start preparing for the Belgrade elections, which will come exactly one year from now. And the first item in these preparations should be the analysis of the presidential election which has just ended. More precisely, the answer to the question: why did the opposition fail to motivate their voters? Why did half of them choose to stay at home? When the Netherlands recently held an election where a (pro-Fascist) right-wing candidate came to the fore, 82 percent of citizens chose to vote, and he failed to win the majority. Had two thirds of Serbian voters chosen to take part in the election, Vucic certainly would not have won in the first round, and it is difficult to say what would have happened after that. However, the opposition, that is, its civil part (since these 10 presidential candidates were more varied than the 19 DOS members) failed to raise tension and convince citizens of the importance of the election.
It was clear, of course, that the elections would not be fair. And of course Vucic’s victory is not “clean as a whistle”, as he is claiming, although it (probably) is in the strictly numerical sense, that is, considering the number of votes that he won. However, the presidential race, given the resources at the disposal of the candidates, resembled the battle between David and Goliath. Despite his huge lead, confirmed by every opinion poll, Vucic left nothing to chance; he was unscrupulous and ruthless. And what is particularly interesting is that, despite that dominant position, he played dirtier than his rivals. His methods included low blows and illegitimate means, while the opposition answered rarely, and even then, weakly.
I have two witnesses, prominent citizens, well-known to the public, who can attest to the fact that I characterized the electoral campaign of certain opposition candidates, in contrast to the slogan of (Ljubisa Preletacevic) Beli’s campaign “Keep it strong”, as “Keep it weak”. The impression, which, unfortunately, turned out to be true, was that such a lack of energy in their public appearances – even if one stood by everything they said – could not end well. To be more specific – it could not motivate the voters who were disoriented, disappointed and apathetic, and attract a critical part of the electorate. The protests that came only a day after the elections demonstrate that the energy was there, but nobody succeeded in activating it.
Thus, there was not enough time for the campaign, but neither was there a clear strategy. This second issue was actually more of a problem. The best proof lies in the fact that the civil candidates were unable to agree on a joint appearance.
There was no money, but there were no ideas either. Vucic had many more weak points than the opposition managed to attack. It was not hard to ridicule Vucic’s promotional videos and trolls, which increased ratings within central Belgrade – and let me be clear, more of the people who were cracking the jokes, than of the candidates, such as Jankovic – but was insufficient to motivate even those who live in suburban Belgrade, let alone inner Serbia. There was no organization of various forms of direct marketing, door to door campaigns, where one neighbor persuades another, which would show people that a serious alternative to Vucic actually exists. With all due respect, this cannot be achieved by someone who, after holding a speech at a rally, chooses to return to his car and drive back to Belgrade.
However, from an objective point of view, and considering the overall situation, it was not realistic to expect that an SNS candidate, whoever they would have been, would loose on the national level. But things are quite different in Belgrade. This is where a much larger part of the electorate supports the opposition, and its opportunities to present its program are far greater. The electoral results show that the difference in the number of votes between Vucic and his opponents in Belgrade is far lesser, and is certainly not unreachable. This is a real and big opportunity that should not be missed. This is the good news. The bad news is that Vucic knows this, as well.
Translated by Bojana Obradovic Kuzminovic