“Explosion of protests” in Serbia against President Vucic after recent shootings

“Explosion of protests” in Serbia against President Vucic after recent shootings
“Explosion of protests” in Serbia against President Vucic after recent shootings

Snezana Stanojevic

Belgrade, May 26. These days Serbia is experiencing an “explosion of citizen protests” that, unleashed after the shootings that at the beginning of the month caused 18 deaths – half of them children – increasingly channel general discontent against the president, the populist Aleksandar Vucic.

Convened by the opposition under the slogan “Serbia against violence”, tens of thousands of protesters are preparing to take to the streets of Belgrade again this Saturday, in the fourth massive protest of its kind in less than three weeks.

“There is an atmosphere of great commotion with a feeling of insecurity, collective trauma and uncertainty,” explains Dusan Milenkovic, an analyst at the NGO Center for Social Dialogue and Regional Initiatives, to EFE.

It is a true “explosion of protests”, says the analyst and recalls the demonstrations in 2000 that led to the fall of the then authoritarian president Slobodan Milosevic (1941-2006).

Naim Leo Besiri, another analyst in Belgrade, from the NGO Institute for European Affairs, also highlights the emotional impact as a key factor behind the strong reaction in the streets.

Citizens express as never before “great discontent and anger” against the authorities, which they accuse of gagging their critics and opponents. “What we see in the streets is the culmination of that discontent,” he says.

The protesters accuse Vucic and his Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), in power since 2012, of authoritarianly exercising tight control over the entire country, and especially over the media.

They also criticize the violent content and hate messages that broadcasters with a large audience close to the government broadcast through their programs and talk shows.

The SNS has called for this afternoon in Belgrade a large rally of support for the president.

Besiri acknowledges that since Vucic came to power, the standard of living for Serbs has improved, although at the same time their freedoms have been restricted.

In addition to demanding greater media plurality, the opposition is calling for the resignation of the Interior Minister and the director of the Information and Security Agency, as well as withdrawing the license of certain stations and closing down certain tabloids.

Milenkovic considers that the street is the only alternative that opponents have in the face of Vucic’s authoritarianism. “He has created a situation, that in Serbia it is only possible to change things on the street,” he says.

Regarding the current protests, condemned by the authorities as a “politicization of a tragedy” and an attempt to force a change of power, the analyst is amazed at their vigor.

“For the first time, the opposition, at an opportune moment and quite bravely, takes the initiative to articulate a citizen’s sentiment,” says Milenkovic.

On May 3, a 13-year-old boy killed nine of his classmates and a security guard in a Belgrade school, and wounded a teacher and five students, with his father’s gun.

Less than 48 hours later, a 21-year-old man killed eight people and injured 14 others in a town in central Serbia.

Until now, Serbian society has not experienced this type of massive and indiscriminate killing.

In reaction to the tragedies, the Serbian government announced measures to restrict gun licenses, with the aim of reducing the number of people who currently own guns by 90%.

Those who have firearms without a license now have until June 8 to turn them in without criminal consequences.

More than 37,000 illegal weapons and 1.5 million pieces of ammunition have been voluntarily deposited in police centers in less than two weeks since the two murders. EFE



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