The Stuntmen

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Apple co-founder Steve Wozniak, a 73-year-old American born in California, recently became a Serbian citizen.

“Now we can boast that the computer genius is Serbian, who will live most of his life in America but will also come to his Serbia,” said Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, according to Euractiv.

The announcement in early December was undoubtedly an election gimmick aimed at Serbians heading to the polls for a snap election on Dec. 17 to elect a new parliament and municipal governments. Vučić appeared to be pulling off a stunt to help his populist, right-wing Serbian Progressive Party retain their rule of the Balkan nation after 12 years in power.

As Al Jazeera explained, Vučić announced the election in early November amid mounting criticism from Serbs and European Union officials who claim he and his allies have cracked down on freedom of the press and taken control of every state institution – while promoting a culture of violence. In May, two shootings claimed the lives of 19 people, including schoolchildren.

Opposition figures charge Vučić and populist lawmakers of ignoring the demands of protesters. European leaders say Serbia must enact policies that the populists are resisting – sanctioning Russia for invading Ukraine, rooting out corruption, improving services, cracking down on organized crime, and protecting human rights – before the country can join the bloc.

As a result, the Serbian Progressive Party is under more pressure than ever in this election, reported Politico. The mayor’s race in Belgrade, the capital, will be especially tight. Opposition leaders have seized on mounting dissatisfaction with illegal construction and “grandiose projects” given to party cronies in the city.

Vučić is an interesting figure. He was propaganda minister for Slobodan Milošević, the Serbian leader and war criminal who waged war on Serbia’s neighbors in the 1990s after the collapse of Yugoslavia, wrote SWI, Switzerland’s state-run news service. He has attempted to retain good relations with Russia. Today, however, he’s also campaigning for EU membership.

The Georgetown Journal of International Affairs described his political and diplomatic style as studied “ambiguity.”

He has been clear, however, in his staunch position on the independence of Kosovo, a former part of Serbia where an ethnic Albanian majority fought a successful NATO-backed war of secession from Serbia in the late 1990s, the Russian government-owned news agency TASS reported. Violence still regularly erupts in the region.

The Serbian Progressive Party will likely retain power, but its position will likely be eroded. One wonders what stunts they might pull off next to reclaim any power they might lose.

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