Protest in the capital of Serbia started after the attack on opposition politician, Borko Stefanovic, on 23th of November. Stefanovic was attacked with iron rod in the city of Krusevac, by men wearing black clothing. The opposition claims that the party of President Aleksandar Vucic, Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), was involved.
However, Vucic denied all accusations and claims the assailants were arrested, short after the attack. The attack on former Democratic Party (DS) MP and current leader of Left Serbia party proved to ba a tricker for mass protests against vilolance in the society and the repressive rule of President Vucic.
Since the 8th of December every Saturday thousands of people marched peacefully throughout Belgrade. The protesters carried banners with slogans such as: ‘I’ll not shut up,’ ‘No more Bloodied shirts,’ and ‘I’m not stupid.’ The participants are raising their voice against the political violence towards the opposition and oppressing. The opposition called upon the citizens to protest against the lack of democracy in Serbia. They demand freedom in the media and fair elections, but also the resignations of some officials. The biggest opposition group, Alliance for Serbia which consist of 30 parties and organizations, call Vucic an autocrat ruler and claims that his party is corrupt.
In the first big protest on December 8, which is called ‘No More Bloodied Shirts’, President Vucic said he would not meet the demands of the protesters and added that even if five million people would protest on the streets that he would not meet their demands. Protesters reacted with the slogan ‘one of five million.’ However, Vucic changed his mind after the third huge protest and he said to pro-government Pink Television that he was ready to listen. His reaction did not prevent another protest on December 29. The protesters called upon Vucic to come to their protest instead.
The SNS has a comfortably majority in the parliament with 160 seats out of 250 seats in the parliament. Next elections are due for 2020, but President Vucic said he was ready for snap elections as reaction to the protests. Vuk Jeremic, a former foreign minister and now the head of People’s party, who is part of the opposition alliance, said the opposition will boycott any elections if the conditions for opposition parties will not be improved.
Even though the protests are impressive for Serbia and they are continuing, President Vucic still enjoys the support of the majority according to different polls. The Belgrade-based CESID election watchdog published in October a poll wherein Vucic enjoys 53.3% approval rate. This number is also backed by another survey carried out by Factor plus in November. Their poll also shows that 53% support SNS while only 14% trust the opposition Alliance for Serbia (SzS).
The protest have some similarities with neighboring country Hungary. In both countries an anti-government protest is going on and they both hold the government responsible for the lack of democracy while both leaders, Vucic and Viktor Orban, are consolidating power. Orban his party, Fides, dominates just like Vucic with his party the public life by strengthening their grip on media and the business sector. Officially the President in Serbia is mainly a ceremonial role, but Vucic is dominating the legislature since 2012.
Sources: Balkan Insight, Balkan Insight II, Balkan Insight III, Radio Free Europe, Reuters, Irish time