Dubbed “Реч на реч,” or “the word on the word,” the May 16 debate between Serbian President Boris Tadic and challenger Tomislav Nikolic is Serbia’s fourth national political debate in a month, following three rounds of televised parliamentary debates in April. This marks the final stop of the Serbian presidential campaign (votes to be cast four days later). This is only the third general election since the dissolution of Yugoslavia in 2003 and the creation of the Republic of Serbia. Cast as a “TV duel” in local media outlets, the feverishly plotted, yet surprisingly plodding, display pits the incumbent and head of the Serbian Democratic Party against the leader of the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party.

As the game show tune reaches a crescendo, the broadcast cuts to clips from the 2004 and 2008 Serbian presidential debates, showcasing younger, less harried versions...

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