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Last Updated: Tuesday, 8 June, 2004, 10:09 GMT 11:09 UK
Taxi show gives voters a lift
By Matt Prodger
BBC, Belgrade

The engine starts, and the opening credits roll for another edition of "Taxi" , a new Serbian TV show which has politicians at the wheel, but puts ordinary people in the driving seat.

The idea is simple: get the country's rulers to drive a cab around the capital Belgrade, pick up customers at random, and broadcast the results.

Bogoljub Karic at wheel of taxi
Politicians pick up members of public and hear what's on their minds
The show's creator, Tanasije Kunijevic, says it's an attempt to bridge the gap between ordinary people and what he sees as the out-of-touch political elite.

"I don't drive so I'm always running around in taxis," he says. "I always end up chatting with the cabbie and one day I was on my way to work when the idea just hit me."

The idea was to kit out a standard car with miniature cameras, microphones, and a politician in the driving seat, and see what happened when the passengers hopped in.

One politician who's slipped behind the wheel of the taxi is Bogoljub Karic.

People are all talking about the same things. That poverty is a big problem, that Serbia has no direction, and that democracy hasn't brought the results they wanted
Bogoljub Karic
He comes from a wealthy background and used to be an associate of former president Slobodan Milosevic.

He's now a candidate in the forthcoming presidential elections in June. His campaign says he's a man of the people, and Taxi is a perfect vehicle in which to put those credentials to the test.

Initially passengers are wary about getting inside, but after a bit of gentle persuasion from the show's producers, a man at a bus stop seizes the opportunity to get a free lift home.

He discovers that he comes from the same region of southern Serbia as Mr Karic, and presses him to do something about poverty and agriculture there.

List of complaints

The next passenger is more forthcoming.

She tells the driver she's angry about low living standards, high unemployment and the lack of a future for Serbia's young people.

She says that after Slobodan Milosevic was toppled in 2000 she had high hopes, but that the politicians have wasted the opportunities.

Bogoljub Karic says he's learnt a few home truths.

"People are all talking about the same things. That poverty is a big problem, that Serbia has no direction, and that democracy hasn't brought the results they wanted," he says.

Technician squashed in taxi boot
It's an uncomfortable ride for the show's technician
There's a technician lying in the boot of the car, mixing and editing throughout the journey.

"We're lucky we found a little guy to do the job," says producer Aleksandar Jankovic. "He's getting used to it now but after the first few shows he was very ill with travel sickness. It was most unpleasant."

As a show, Taxi has its surreal moments. Mr Karic insists on taking a diversion to a church to pick up a couple of newlyweds and take them to their wedding reception. They are bemused, but have no complaints.

Mr Kunijevic says the show has yet to fulfil its potential. He's disappointed the passengers aren't more confrontational.

'Higher beings'

"I was hoping people would open up and tell them exactly what's on their minds," he says.

"They're not necessarily scared of politicians, but they're uncomfortable with them. In Serbia there's still an attitude that politicians are 'higher beings'.

"They'll criticise them behind their backs, but less so to their faces."

It's election time in Serbia, and Taxi's a good showcase for the competing candidates.

For the next few weeks they'll do all they can to look like they're listening to the general public.

All the voters have to do is keep their eyes peeled for a little red cab driven by an uncomfortable looking politician in a suit.

Analysis: Serbia's 'gravedigger'
15 Apr 04  |  Europe

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