On a sunny morning in Belgrade as people rush to work, activists are hastily setting up mobile stands on the streets. “I have talked to citizens since the beginning of the campaign and am convinced we will win,” Jelena, a member of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), told DW while arranging flyers and supporter lists on a stand with the slogan “Faster, harder, better.” As the first round of voting approaches this Sunday, the campaign has become increasingly tense, with insults traded, biased media coverage and a clear division between supporters and opponents of the ruling SNS presidential candidate and acting Prime Minister Vucic. Nominally there are 11 candidates, but judging by realities on the ground there’s Vucic – and then the “others.”
Public polls show that Vucic dominates both in the media and in the field, with massive rallies and guest speakers such as former German Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, a deputy speaker of the Russian Duma, Pyotr Tolstoy, and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Peter Siarto.
The opposition candidates’ campaigns are far more modest, reduced to walking around and talking to voters. “Presidential elections, called in the shortest legal term possible, were preceded by uncertainty whether there would be just presidential and/or early parliamentary elections. That led to heated messages, which sometimes turned to hate speech,” Rasa Nedeljkov, program director of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA), which monitors the fairness of entire electoral processes, told DW.