Spotlight on Serbia's unorthodox presidential candidate

Image copyright AFP/Getty Images
Image caption A 25-year old student's alter ego has come second in Serbia's presidential election polls

"Hit it Hard"

Think you need years of experience under your belt to get a top-notch job? Think again.

Despite announcing his candidacy just a few weeks ago, a Serbian university student has come second in opinion polls just days ahead of the presidential election on 2 April.

The candidate, Ljubisa Preletacevic (or Beli, which is Serbian for white), is the alter-ego of 25-year old Luka Maksimovic.

Sporting a white suit and a samurai-style ponytail, he has proved popular with voters and his promotional videos are a big hit on social media.

Premier Aleksandar Vucic is still the leading candidate for the five-year presidency with more than 50 per cent of the vote in the latest opinion poll.

But newcomer Beli, complete with his oversized jewellery and rallying call "Hit it Hard", is vying to break through the political establishment.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Beli typically sports loafers, a white suit, oversized jewellery and fur coat

On his Twitter account, the comedic politician shared a meme of US President Donald Trump, whom he calls his "colleague", holding up a "go and vote for Beli" sign.

Referring to himself as Uncle, Beli also likened himself to Gandalf from Lord of the Rings riding into a battlefield on a white horse.

He often appears in videos riding a horse through towns and making elaborate campaign promises.

Image copyright Samojako.rs
Image caption In this parody flyer, a group of pro-Beli citizens aim to make public and political life in a Belgrade suburb as "banal as possible"

Beli's grossly exaggerated character also appears in a music video on his YouTube page, with the lyrics: "Serbia is burning. This time there is no going back, no surrender. A leader is born, an omen comes from the sky. He cuts through lies with his burning sword, he breaks the shackles.

"Beli, go forth bravely, you're a true winner. You're a knight and a protector of all people."

His online campaign material has been a success, including this music video showing him dancing through the streets, being serenaded by trumpet players.

The persona started out as a joke with his friends to mock what they say is the state of corruption in their country.

However, they still managed to win several seats in the Belgrade assembly in a local election in 2016.

Image copyright Twitter/@belisamojako
Image caption Beli asked his fans to run after him like they ran after Pokemon

And now he's made it big on the national political stage after gaining popularity with Serbia's younger generation.

Last Saturday, Beli reportedly climbed a statue in a Serbian village and shouted to the crowd: "I am here to save you people!"

Regardless of the election result, Beli's campaign appears to have struck a chord especially with young Serbians, overtaking established veteran politicians. He recently told AFP: "All the attention we are getting is a slap to the authorities and the opposition.

"They should ask themselves what they have brought this country to when a fictitious character can run for presidency and people want to vote for him. That shows something is wrong."

By the UGC and Social News team; Additional reporting by Vesna Stancic

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