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Protests In Serbia Over Alleged Election Fraud

There have been ongoing demonstrations in Belgrade, Serbia, following accusations of electoral fraud in the national and municipal elections of December 17th. The opposition coalition, Serbia Against Violence, has pledged to continue protesting until the results of the Belgrade elections are overturned.

The ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won a clear victory in the parliamentary elections, gaining 48% of the vote, compared to the opposition’s 24%. It also won convincingly in most of the municipal elections. The result in Belgrade was closer, however, with the SNS polling 39.98% and the opposition 35.50%.

The opposition disputes the results in Belgrade, accusing the SNS of bussing in voters from Republika Srpska to tip the election in its favour. The SNS denies rigging the vote and insists that the ballots were fair despite criticism from international monitors and local election observers.

Representatives from Serbia Against Violence have said that they will not recognise the election results in Belgrade, calling for the vote to be annulled and a new election to be held. Vladimir Obradović, the opposition’s candidate for mayor of Belgrade, said during the protest on December 26th that “We will not recognise the theft, and the electoral will of the citizens will be defended”.

The protests, which have been largely peaceful, turned violent on Christmas Eve, as demonstrators attempted to storm Belgrade City Hall. Riot police stepped in after some protesters began throwing rocks and smashing windows. The police said that eight officers were injured. Serbia Against Violence claimed that violent incidents were carried out by ‘hooligans sent by the government’.

President Aleksandar Vučić later took to Pink TV, a pro-government channel, to denounce the protesters. He refuted accusations of electoral fraud as "lies" invented by the opposition and said that the protests amounted to "an attempted violent takeover of the state institutions". The President also suggested that foreign powers were behind the protests.

Russia stuck its nose in, too. The ambassador to Serbia, Aleksandr Botsan Harchenko, likened the protests to the Maidan revolution in Ukraine in 2013-14, which were supported by the West. In a television interview, the ambassador said that there was “irrefutable evidence” that the “riot” in Belgrade had been incited by the West, echoing claims by President Vučić that his government was the victim of outside forces seeking a ‘colour revolution’.

There is no evidence that Western governments instigated the street protests against Mr Vučić. On the contrary, the US ambassador to Serbia, Christopher Hill, called on the opposition “to respect the will of the people as expressed in the ballot box” and denounced the “violence and vandalism” of Sunday’s protests.

Despite the regime’s tough response, protests are expected to continue. Borko Stefanović, an opposition MP, told the Financial Times that “Protests will continue every day...Vučić and his regime are going back to their old, radical, violent, pro-Russian ways. This should worry everyone”.

Many have likened the tactics of the current president to those of former Serbian leader Slobodan Milošević. Unlike the Otpor movement which led to the overthrow of Milošević in 2000, however, these protests are unlikely to bring about a second Bulldozer revolution. The SNS will hold on to power, but further protests and allegations of electoral fraud will do little to improve Serbia’s image abroad.

Edited by Victoria Muzio

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Tags: #Serbia#Belgrade#Protests#Vucic#Russia


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