Controversial ‘Crashing Airplane’ Advertisement Stirs Serbian Presidential Elections Debate

Images from the video promoting candidacy by Aleksandar Vučić for president of Serbia.

Serbia will hold presidential elections this April, and current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić this month announced his candidacy for president. Just a few day later his campaign published a video commercial comparing the country to an airplane in danger of crashing, which naturally stirred debate on social media.

The video tells the story of an airplane branded with the slogan “Serbia 2017″. The plane has two pilots, symbolizing the prime minister and the president who share the responsibility for running the state. ‘The pilots’ argue about the direction of the plane, shaking it from side to side, causing passengers to panic.

However, the video then reveals that all is well with the “Serbia 2017″ airplane. The turbulence was merely a bad dream of one of the passengers, Prime Minister Vučić, who worries about the future.

He declares:

Ovo bi mogla da bude najgora noćna mora. Naša zemlja je kao i ovaj avion, poverena na upravljanje dvojici ljudi. Predsedniku i premijeru. I ako ta dva čoveka vode državu u različitim pravcima, nećemo moći da očuvamo stabilan kurs koji trenutno imamo.

This could have been our worst nightmare. Governance of our country, just like this airplane, has been entrusted to two persons. The president and the prime minister. If these two men lead the country in different directions, we would not be able to maintain our present stable course.

Towards the end of the ad, the two pilot characters, who emerged out of the cockpit to listen to him, agreed with his sentiments: “Well said!”

Finally, they dash back to the unmanned cockpit and the words of Vučić's campaign slogan “Faster, Stronger, Better, Serbia” appear on the screen.

To run or not to run

Vučić's eventual decision to run for president is controversial in the context of his previous statements that appeared to rule him out of the race.

As documented by the political accountability website Istinomer (Truth-o-meter), he gave at least seven public statements during 2016 in which he explicitly claimed he would not be a candidate in the upcoming presidential elections.

However, in December he started backtracking and said that he would make a final decision in January or February.

Vučić's presidency bid, announced in an interview with RTS, the Serbian Public Broadcaster, triggered caustic reactions on Twitter and other social networks.

Why don't they simply abolish the function of the President of Serbia? There's no use in it, and it even creates discord and problems.

The ‘airplane’ advertisement added fuel to arguments that his prior reluctance to run was just political calculation:

It is clear, if we do the math, that the production of Vučić's airplane video [commercial] took at least 20-odd days. So you can see if he really had second thoughts until the last moment.

No one in political history has released a [campaign ad] showing he's ready to take citizens to their deaths if they don't do his bidding.

Twitter user Jovana Gligorijević pointed out that very similar video was used by a political party in Ukraine. She commented ironically, “Oops, the Ukrainian scenario,” mocking a stock phrase used by pro-Russian propagandists to caution against pro-Western political alignment in former communist countries.

Another Twitter user referred to the destiny of Vesna Vulović, a flight attendant who was famous as the sole survivor of a plane crash in 1972.

This is a clear message to the citizens:
The airplane symbolizes the state, so unless you happen to be Vesna Vulović, you'd better move to Canada.

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