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When Elections Are a Joke, the People Tell Election Jokes

"Pecko" caricature by Darko Markovic for Citizens for European Macedonia. Used with permission.

“Pecko” caricature by Darko Markovic for Citizens for European Macedonia. Used with permission.

Jokes about elections and election fraud are common feature of modern Balkans folklore, reflecting the concerns of citizens across the region. Ballot box misdeeds have been a very real issue in the young democracies of Montenegro, Macedonia and Serbia, and as the saying goes, ‘If I didn't laugh, I'd cry.’

These acidic jokes are mostly spread on social media and among friends. Entertainment websites that rely on copy-paste production sometimes include them in bigger compilations, too.

Let's take a look at a few of these jokes from the region.

‘I just want to wait for my father to come and vote’

The following joke from Montenegro refers to widespread practice of not erasing deceased voters from the Voter's Registry:

Došao Crnogorac na biračko mjesto kako bi glasao.
Nakon završenog glasanja, zatraži od ljudi iz komisije da mu daju stolicu da sjedne.
– Izvolite stolicu, je li Vam dobro, gospodine?
– Ma dobro mi je, samo ću da sačekam oca da dođe na glasanje.
– Pa doći će Vam otac kući poslije glasanja?
– On ne dolazi kući, evo ima već 10 godina jer je umro, ali redovno izlazi na izbore pa rekoh da ga vidim…

A Montenegrin man goes to the polling station to vote.
After voting, he asked the electoral committee to lend him a chair to sit.
– Here's your chair, sir. Do you feel unwell?
– I am OK, I just want to wait for my father to come and vote.
– Well, won't your father come home after voting?
– No, he won't come home. He died over 10 years ago, but he regularly votes in elections, so I figured I'd try to see him…

While this particular version is “branded” as coming from Montenegro, variations can be found about many other countries. A 1998 article by a British author notes a version referring to a 1948 campaign in the US.

‘But we have no children in the village!’

Variations of following joke is present across forums and social media throughout the region. These particular copies are from a selection of election jokes from a Serbian entertainment website:

Kandidat za gradonačelnika u nekom selu drži govor, pa kaže:
– Do vašeg sela ćemo napraviti asfaltirani put! Napravit ćemo i vodovod! Izgradit ćemo i školu!
Netko iz mase:
– Ali u selu nema dece!
– I decu ćemo vam napraviti!

A candidate holds a speech in a small village:
– We'll make an asphalt road to your village! We'll make waterworks and indoor plumbing for you. We'll build you a school!
A citizen from the crowd shouts:
– But we have no children in the village!
– We'll make you some children, too!

Kindergartens and prisons

As witih many other jokes, the following also has universal appeal, even though it's attributed to a particular country:

Dođe premijer Srbije u posetu vrtiću. Gleda malo decu kako se igraju i kaže svom ministru finansija:
– Daj piši ček na 5.000 eura za poboljšanje životnih standarda u vrtićima!
I ovaj napiše ček, i idu dalje te dođu u zatvor. I gleda malo zatvorenike kako robuju i kaže:
– Daj piši ček na 500.000 eura za poboljšanje životnih uslova u zatvoru!
– Pa kako za decu 5.000, a za ove zločince i razbojnike 500.000? – kaže ministar finansija.
A, premijer će njemu: – A šta ti, misliš da ćeš ići u vrtić posle sledećih izbora?

The Serbian prime minister visits a kindergarten. Watching the kids play, he tells his minister of finance:
– Allocate 5,000 euros of the budget to improving living conditions in kindergartens!
The minister of finance complies. Then they both visit a prison. After watching the prisoners for a while, the prime minister says:
– Allocate 500,000 euros of the budget to improving living conditions in prisons!
– Why 5,000 for the kids, and 500,000 for these criminals and robbers? – the minister of finance asks.
The prime minister responds:
– Do you think that after the next elections, we'll be sent to a kindergarten?

98% vs. 2%

Widespread use of questionable polling results as a propaganda tool is the subject of this joke collected by a Serbian blogger.

Političar se obratio agenciji za ispitivanje javnog mišljenja:
– Imam osećaj da bi 98% građana ove zemlje glasalo za mene. Da li bi mogli to proveriti?
Dva meseca kasnije dobio je izveštaj:
– Gospodine, anketirali smo 10.000 ljudi i svi pripadaju onom malom postotku od 2% građana koji su protiv vas.

A politician asks a polling agency to conduct a survey for him:
– I have a feeling that 98% of citizens of this country would vote for me. Could you check that?
Two months later he receives a report:
– Sir, we surveyed 10,000 persons and they all belong to that small percentage of 2% of citizens who are against you.

‘Son, please help me, I forgot my glasses’

In 2011, Nova Makedonija daily asked Macedonian politicians to tell their favorite jokes. Opposition Member of Parliament Vesna Bendevska contributed with the following:

Бабичка оди на гласање.
– Синко, помогни ми, те молам, ги заборавив очилата.
– Нема проблем, госпоѓо – вели еден новопечен административец и го заокружува лавчето на листот.
– Може ли да знам за кого гласав, синко?
– Не може, госпоѓо, изборите се тајни!

An old granny goes to vote:
– Son, please help me, I forgot my glasses.
– No problem, madam – said an newly employed civil servant from the election committee, and circled the ruling party candidate on the ballot.
– Could you tell me who I voted for, son?
– I cannot, madam, that would be a violation of the secrecy of the vote.

‘Merkel calls Gruevski on the phone…’

The following joke can be interpreted as poking fun at the supposed support Balkan right-wing parties receive from their “sister parties” within the European People's Party, a political party within the European Union. “Proving” to the electorate that one has the support of “the foreigners” is often key to getting swing voters. In a kind of role reversal, Nikola Gruevski, the leader of the ruling VMRO-DPMNE from Macedonia, helps Angela Merkel, chancellor of Germany and leader of the Christian Democratic Union political party from Germany.

The Mile character in the joke refers to Mile Janakieski, former government minister and Gruevski's right-hand man, currently under investigation as a key suspect in a criminal conspiracy case to commit electoral fraud.

Му ѕвони Ангела Меркел на Груевски:
– Никола, пријателе, ми треба помош од тебе. Во Германија ќе има избори и многу ми е тешко.
– Ангела, ако помогнеш да влеземе во ЕУ, нема проблем. Што да направам за тебе?
– Никола, ако можеш, испрати ми некој искусен стратег да ми помага!
– Нема проблем, Ангела, ќе ти го испратам Миле.
Поминале изборите и Груевски и ѕвони н Меркел:
– Ангела, што бидна, победивте ли?
– Не, завршивме на второ место и ги изгубивме изборите.
– Како така, а кој победи тогаш?
– ВМРО…

Merkel calls Gruevski on the phone:
– Nikola, my friend, I need your help. We have elections in Germany and I'm going to have a hard time winning.
– Angela, if you help us get into the European Union, no problem. What can I do for you?
– Well, you seem to win all the time. If you can, please send some experienced strategist to help!
– No problem, Angela, I'll send Mile.
After the elections, Gruevski calls Merkel over the phone:
– Angela, what happened, why didn't you call to thank me?
– But we didn't win, we ended up at second place.
– How come, who won then?
– VMRO…

"Forward to Europe!" A "Pecko" caricature by Darko Markovic, made for Citizens for European Macedonia. Used with permission.

“Forward to Europe!” A “Pecko” caricature by Darko Markovic, made for Citizens for European Macedonia. Used with permission.

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