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Unrest in Serbia after elections and attack on LGBTIQ+ centre

Photo: The Pride centre in Belgrade after an attack in May 2023 – Wikimedia Commons


There is unrest in Belgrade, Serbia. Large-scale protests have been taking place weekly since the 17 December elections. The results are being questioned due to alleged fraud and other irregularities. In addition, the LGBTQ+ community continues to suffer exclusion and vandalism – on 7 January, a Pride info centre in the heart of Belgrade was vandalised. It is indicative of the unrest prevailing in Serbian society under the conservative, nationalist, authoritarian regime of President Vučić and the SNS party.

Pride centre

The Pride Info Centre in Belgrade advocates for recognition of the LGBTQ+ community and agendises its struggles and challenges. It functions as a meeting place and event venue, and contributes to the visibility of the community through its central location. Above all, it acts as an information centre for anyone with questions regarding rights and welfare. On 7 January – Christmas Day in the Serbian Orthodox Church – an unknown perpetrator completely destroyed the front windows of the centre. It was not the first time this particular info centre had been the victim of a hate attack – the tally now stands at nineteen attacks in just six years. None of the previous incidents have been properly investigated and no one has ever been prosecuted. The facade was repaired and it is a matter of waiting for the next time things go wrong.

Vučić’s agenda

That the LGBTQ+ community is not welcome in Serbia becomes clear year after year during Pride. The 2022 Pride in Belgrade – marking the first EuroPride Week in south-eastern Europe – was banned by the authorities under the guise of public safety. What should have been an event of acceptance and change – another step in the right direction – turned into a day of anti-Pride protests and groups clashing with police. Anti-LHBTIQ+ sentiment permeates in politics. Extreme-right parties like Dveri are actively speaking out against Pride and organising counter-protests. Conservative-nationalist parties in parliament – which have the majority – have no incentive to think differently. Nationalist, religious, conservative groups arouse polarisation with their protests and are a more than welcome partner for Vučić to realise his nationalist, conservative agenda.


The attack on the Pride Centre in Belgrade takes place in a broader trend of democratic decline in Serbia. Since the 17 December parliamentary and local elections, thousands of people have taken to the streets in Belgrade every week to protest against alleged electoral fraud. Led by the opposition coalition Serbia Against Violence, they are demanding nullification of the election results. Opposition members have even gone on hunger strike. Across the country, tens of thousands of people have now mobilised for the sake of a transparent and democratic electoral process. Police violence is not unusual. It shows how those in power view anything that challenges their legitimacy.

Unequal playing field

International observation missions report on vote buying and other fraudulent practices that helped facilitate a victory for the SNS, in addition to concerns leading up to the electoral process. Starting with the uneven playing field, deliberately created by those in power, which prevented a free choice from being guaranteed. The line between the state and the SNS was far away during the campaign. It was dominated by Vučić’s party through media and on the streets. There was also involvement of the president, despite the fact that there were no presidential elections and Vučić was therefore supposed to stand aside.

“… marred by harsh rhetoric, bias in the media, pressure on public sector employees and misuse of public resources.” – IEOM

Organised migration of voters

In particular, the elections in the capital Belgrade, which were narrowly won by SNS, raise serious concerns. According to CRTA – an independent organisation working for democratisation in Serbia – the result in Belgrade was directly influenced by irregularities and does not reflect the will of the people. In local elections, votes were cast by non-voters. People with dual citizenship are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections but not in local elections because they are not residents of Serbia. On election day, there was talk of buses full of people from Bosnia & Herzegovina, for example, coming to cast an unauthorised vote in Belgrade’s local elections. In addition, there was so-called ‘organised migration of voters‘. Voters hereby change their residential address to influence voting results – as there were not local elections everywhere. The opposition is calling for re-elections, particularly in the capital, which it claims it won provided there was no fraud.

“…marked by numerous procedural deficiencies, …breaches in the secrecy of the vote, and numerous instances of group voting.” – IEOM

Given the number of observers – 5,587 – the Serbian government seems to want to give the appearance of a transparent democracy, but their conclusions speak volumes. There is plenty of evidence that the elections were not fair, but the opposition has nowhere to turn with this evidence. The authorities simply ignore the allegations. Voices that try to protect democracy are ousted and arrested.

International reactions

With observer missions from the European Parliament and the OSCE, a reaction from Europe cannot fail to follow. Director of the PES (European Social Democrats) – Stefan Löfven – has therefore written a letter to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić of Serbia to express his concerns about the irregularities surrounding the elections and the rule of law in general. The PES also earlier reacted with disgust to Serbian authorities’ accusations towards MEP Andreas Schieder – part of the EP’s observer mission – who according to the authorities allegedly reported subjectively on disturbances. The expressed concerns and demand for independent investigations are a first step, but in order to maintain credibility as Western democracies, demanding re-elections is the only thing that will make a difference. Only an independent investigation in a country that simply disregards conclusions of reports will do little to move things forward.


Given recent events, one can only conclude that Serbia has a very long way to go before EU accession. Systematic discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community persists and politicians do not care. Substantial steps need to be taken to get in line with European values, starting with ensuring free and fair elections.


Want to know more? In the run-up to the elections, FMS organised a Political Café on 7 December that looked ahead to the elections and discussed the possible effects domestically and abroad. Watch our event back here!


Written by Timon Driessen