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Live Blog 07 Apr 17

LIVE: Anti-Vucic Protests Continue Across Serbia

Stay tuned for all the latest developments as thousands of people protest in towns across Serbia against what they call the “dictatorship” of Aleksandar Vucic, the president-elect and current prime minister.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade

BIRN has prepared a guide containing the main facts about the protest movement: Serbia’s Anti-Vucic Protests: Key Facts

April 26, 2017

The rally in Belgrade ended in front of Serbia’s national broadcaster, RTS. The protesters vowed to gather again tomorrow at 6pm at the parliament building.

Photo: Milos Miskov/Beta

 

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Belgrade protesters blocked one of the entrances to the main building of Serbia’s national broadcaster, RTS, while the TV station was running its scheduled newscast.

The protesters organised a „newscast“ of their own, during which a former RTS journalist, Gordana Bingulac, said she was „ashamed“ that her former colleagues are not covering the protests.

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The crowd of several hundred protesters in Belgrade stopped in front of the RTS building. They are demanding a live broadcast of the rally from Serbia’s national broadcaster.

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Yet another „Protest Against the Dictatorship“ kicks off in Belgrade. Around 150 protesters blocked traffic in front of the Serbian National Assembly, according to Beta news agency.

Earlier today some of the protesters announced that they may try blocking the entrance into the main building of Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, during tonight’s rally.

 

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Protesters in Belgrade may block the entrance into the main building of Serbia’s public broadcaster, RTS, during tonight’s rally, daily newspaper Danas reports. Protesters who wished to remain anonymous told Danas that they will try blocking the entrance used by RTS vehicles.

Recent protest in Belgrade. Photo: Milos Miskov/Beta

 

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Serbian branch of Transparency International filed a complaint to the Commissioner for Information of Public Importance, claiming that the national media regulator did not disclose information on media monitoring during the campaign for Serbia’s presidential elections, held on April 2.

Transparency asked the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media, REM, to say whether it has information regarding the total duration of political ads that aired on Serbian TV and radio stations, as well as information on the length of broadcasts covering campaign rallies, conventions and similar events. They claim that the REM avodied to give a straight answer.

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Several thousand protesters in the Serbian capital marked the first anniversary of the controversial demolitions in Belgrade with a protest entitled 'On the Trail of Phantoms'. Read more: Serbia Protesters Mark Savamala Anniversary

Photo: Srdjan Garcevic/BIRN

 

April 25, 2017

The President of the Serbian Parliament, Maja Gojkovic, refused to let anti-government demonstrators watch today’s parliament session from the balcony, N1 television reported.

MPs from the opposition Nova Stranka party, Zoran Zivkovic and Marinika Tepic, filed a request on Monday from 47 anti-government demonstrators to attend the session, with the MPs telling Serbian media that it is an opportunity for parliament to demonstrate openness and transparency.

Photo: Beta/Dragan Gojic

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Serbian Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic and Belgrade’s Mayor, Sinisa Mali, are “involved in every way” in the Belgrade Waterfront project, Dobrica Veselinovic from the initiative Let’s Not Drown Belgrade (“Ne davimo Beograd”) stated on Tuesday, ahead of tonight’s protest marking the first anniversary of the controversial Savamala demolitions.

Veselinovic told N1 television that protesters have got strength from the country’s citizens, who are starting to feel that Belgrade is “developing in wrong direction”.

Activists are preparing a widescale protest for April 25th, to mark the one year anniversary of the Savamala demolitions in Belgrade. Photo: Facebook/Let's not Drown Belgrade Initiative.

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Anti-government protesters from Serbia’s two largest cities, Belgrade and Novi Sad, announced that they will be joining today’s rally organised by the Let’s not drown Belgrade (“Ne davimo Beograd”) initiative, marking the first anniversary of the controversial Savamala demolitions.

Demonstrators from Novi Sad also said they would talk their fellow protesters in Belgrade about future anti-government rallies, and have called on citizens to join the unions’ rallies which will be held for Labour Day on May 1.

Protest in Novi Sad. Photo: Dragan Gojic/Beta

 

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Mayor of Belgrade Sinisa Mali announced today that he will not seek a second term as the head of Serbia’s capital after his first term expires next year.

“I think I will go back to being an entrepreneur, but I am not ruling out the possibility of helping Belgrade, or the government and Serbia’s new president [Aleksandar Vucic],” Mali told the daily tabloid Alo.

Sinisa Mali (front right) visiting a shopping mall. Photo: Beoinfo

 

April 24, 2017

EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said on Monday that the Serbian government should engage the anti-government protesters in a discussion in order to end the nightly rallies that have been going on since Aleksandar Vucic won the presidential elections on April 2.

Hahn congratulated Vucic, Serbia’s incumbent Prime Minister, on his election win, and said he expects the government of Serbia to be reconstituted soon in order to continue with the reforms.

Hahn and Serbia's foreign minister Ivica Dacic. Photo: Beta/European Commission/Georges Boulougouris

 

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Opposition Democratic Party published on Sunday that the car of Miroslav Ilic, a local MP candidate on the part’s list in the town of Odzaci, northern Serbia, was set on fire twice on the eve of the local election.

Ilic told Beta news agency that he extinguished the first fire around midnight, when he returned from campaigning in a nearby village, but the vehicle was set alight again two hours later.

Serbian Police deny the fire was intentionally started by someone, announcing on Sunday there are no indications that the incident was a criminal act.

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Officials from the Socialist Party of Serbia, SPS, Dusan Bajatovic and Aleksandar Antic, travelled to the northern town of Vrbas on Sunday to reduce tensions, N1 television reported, after two activists for the party were attacked during local elections in town that day.

SPS said that the activists were exiting a parking lot at a polling station when about ten cars blocked their path. The men were told to exit their vehicle and were then physically assaulted, Beta news agency reported.

Beaten SPS activists. Photo: Beta

 

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April 20, 2017

Around a hundred protesters held a rally tonight in Serbian southern city of Nis chanting “Not our President!” and “Here we are again!”. The protesters said the low temperatures and rain prevented more people from attending.

Protesters in Nis. Photo: Beta

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Several hundred protesters took a walk to the building to public broadcaster RTS. Protesters are taking a shorter route tonight due to a rain.

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Students participating in the nightly protests in Serbia against Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic’s government refused the call of Zoran Zivkovic, current opposition MP and former PM from 2003-2004, to attend the ongoing parliamentary session as guests.

In an announcement on the Facebook page “Against Dictatorship”, which serves as a platform for the protesters, the students said that their criticism is not just directed at the government, but also the opposition.

“We do not believe in declared support, but instead ask for solutions to key problems concerning the living standard of all citizens, especially the most vulnerable,” the statement on the Facebook page reads.

The opposition needs to understand that it will not be perceived as fundamentally different from the ruling majority until it produces results that prove otherwise, the students said.

April 19, 2017

Several hundred people gathered at the 17th “Protest Against the Dictatorship” in Belgrade, undeterred by rain and cold weather.

The column moved through the city streets led by drummers. The protesters chanted and carried banners that read “Down with Dictatorship!” and “The King is Naked”. 

Protesters in Belgrade. Photo: Milos Miskov/Beta

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Protesters in Belgrade had a brief confrontation with the leader of the ultranationalist Serbian Radical Party, Vojislav Seselj, when they tried to block the parking lot at the National Assembly at the start of another anti-government rally.

Seselj was leaving the parliament after the end of today's session when a group of around 20 protesters surrounded his car, according to Serbian media. Words were exchanged between the protesters and Seselj's bodyguard, while a plainclothes policeman asked the people not to hassle members of parliament.

The Radical Party leader told TV Pink that the citizens can "protest all they want" but that he would not tolerate anyone "assaulting" him or his men.

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Serbian parliamentary speaker Maja Gojkovic announced on Wednesday that she will schedule a session in which the request for her dismissal will be voted on.

Gojkovic’s resignation is one of the demands that protesters attending the nightly anti-government rallies have requested.

While the exact date has not been announced, she said that the session will take place between April 29 and May 2, according to Beta news agency.

Separate initiatives for her dismissal were submitted by the opposition Democratic Party and “Enough is Enough” movement.

Gojkovic said that the ruling majority will vote in favour of those requests, since the opposition does not have enough MPs to make their proposals part of the schedule.

April 18, 2017

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The Association of Unions of Education Workers of Serbia expressed their support for the youth protests taking place across the country and all of the demonstrators’ “demands that would help society heal.”

“Corruption, nepotism, lawlessness, low salaries, erosion of institutions and brain drain are just some of the issues of our society that participants are talking about.

“In its own way, the Association has been fighting against these things for 18 years and that is why the Main Board is supporting a protest of every individual and association that is fighting the same illnesses,” the association wrote in a statement.

It added that “education workers should stand alongside their students and support [them] to express their dissatisfaction in a peaceful way.” 

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Ljubisav Orbovic, president of the Alliance of Independent Unions of Serbia, SSSS, commented on ongoing anti-government protests saying that unions did not have support from students, nor anyone else when the government adopted Labour Law back in 2014.

“Now, we can read messages that exactly refer to that law on the banners they are carrying ,” Orbovic told press conference.

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After a break over the Easter holidays that saw far fewer crowds on the streets, rallies across the country are expected to resume in full force tonight.

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As the protests against the rule of Serbian Prime Minister and President-Elect Aleksandar Vucic are set to resume on Monday, after slowing during the Easter holidays, BIRN has prepared a gallery of main messages that the protesters were carrying on their banners.

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April 17, 2017

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Several hundred protesters attended anti-government protest in Belgrade, held for 15th evening in a row.

They demand resignations from top state officials, including Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic and Maja Gojkovic, Serbian parliamentary speaker and removal of the management of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media, REM, the State Electoral Commission, RIK, and public broadcaster RTS.

Protesters gatheirng in Belgrade earlier tonight. Photo: Beta

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Protests in Novi Sad have been resumed tonight, after Easter holiday’s break. About 1,500 people took the streets carrying Serbian flag and a banner “Against the System”.

Miran Pogacar from Student Movement, association of Novi sad University’s students that have been organizing ptotests in Serbian second city said the protesters have already “succeeded” as they entered third week.

Student Jovan Repovic told the gathered protesters that “this people always knew how to fight back when oppressed.”

Protesters gather in Novi sad. Photo: Vanja Djuric/BIRN

April 16, 2017

Several hundred people gathered for fresh anti-government protest in Belgrade. Larger protests in the capital are expected to continue on Tuesday, after Easter holiday. Photo: Beta
"Do not let this flame to go out. See you tomorrow at 6pm," one of the protesters said.

April 15, 2017

Anti-government protests were held tonight in Serbian capital of Belgrade and in northern town of Subotica.

Several hundred people in Belgrade marched from parliament building to the building of public broadcaster chanting “Get out!”, “Down with Dictatorship!” and “Vucic, T!”. The protest ended with chants “Tomorrow at 6!” announcing fresh rally for Sunday evening.

Protesters carry a banner that lists their demands. Photo: Beta

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The protesters launched a campaign on social media “I’m the organiser” calling everyone who participated in the protests to send the photos of themselves to the Progressives’ MP Aleksandar Martinovic who showed photos of the adolescents at protests in Novi Sad and Belgrade to a press conference on Tuesday.

In a Facebook post, protesters called participants to send their photos to Martinovic’s office at the Faculty of Law in Novi Sad, where he works as lecturer.

The protesters further wrote that have decided to show their “good will” and help Martinovic so that he could take some rest from searching for their photos during the holidays.

 “As you know, Aleksandar Martinovic was showing photos of some of the protesters [during his appearance] at [public broadcaster] RTS, calling them organisers.

“We condemn such move as it is clear targeting of the participants and an attempt of intimidation,” the post of Facebook writes.

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Association of Serbian Pensioners’ Unions expressed in a statement its support for anti-government protests.

“We ask from the authorities to stop offering to foreign and local companies our most competent people as a cheap labour.

“This is brining our children in a situation where in their own country they are becoming slaves, forced to work for the lowest salaries in Europe, often without full contract, without future, without right on retirement and any kind of protection,” the association wrote.

Pensioners have already organised protest on March 28 demanding higher pensions that would be in line with living costs.

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About 200 hundred people gathered on Friday evening in Belgrade in fresh anti-government protests. As most demonstrators took a break during the Easter holidays, Friday’s protest march from the parliament building to Serbian public broadcaster and back to the parliament draw out many families with children.

The protests will continue tonight at 6pm.

“Revolution does not stop, join us in peaceful walk,” one of the protesters said.

The protests were also held in several other towns across Serbia including Uzice and Subotica.

April 13, 2017

About 60 people, mainly youth and parents with children, gathered on protest in central Serbian town of Krusevac chanting “Down with the Dictatorship!” and “Everyone to the Streets!”.

The protesters stated they will continue protesting during Easter holidays.

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Hundreds of anti-government protesters in Serbian southern city of Nis added a fresh list of ‘local demands’ calling for “strict control” of city’s budget and local institutions, as well as local officials.

“We demands end of nepotism […]. We also demand transparency of [public] employment calls,” a student said reading the demands.

Students also called the authorities boost local economy, give state subsidies to local instead foreign businesses, to prosecute judicial officials who failed to act on reports they received from citizens and launch regional public broadcaster.

The protesters said the list is not final and urged all citizens and unions to join and contribute the joint list of demands.

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Autonomija Info reports that protesters in Serbian second city of Novi Sad said they have been followed and filmed during the last several days.

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Hundreds of people gathered in the capital of Belgrade and northern city of Novi Sad in fresh anti-government rallies.

Today’s protests gathered fewer people, as it was previously announced that the rally would not be held due Easter holidays.

According to the previous announcements, protesters will no be hitting the streets in the next four days, but the rallies will continue on Tuesday.

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BLOG: The protesters in Serbia may not ‘win’ - but at least they show a large number of people in this country still believe dignity and democratic rights are worth fighting for. Read more: Protests Show Serbia Has Not Lost its Dignity

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Goran Ciric, an MP of Serbian opposition Democratic Party, announced on Thursday that a petition calling for the resignation of Serbian parliament speaker Maja Gojkovic has been filed with the signatures of 32 MPs.

At a press conference, Ciric explained that they want Gojkovic to step down because of her decision to cancel the work of the Parliament during the campaign for the presidential elections, which were held on April 2.

“I expect that with this initiative we’ll open possibilities for opening of debate [on Gojkovic’s resignation],” Ciric said.

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Serbian Prime Minister and President-elect Aleksandar Vucic said on Thursday that he condemns the act of an MP in his ruling Progressive Party showing pictures to the public of journalists and politicians, alongside their children, at the anti-government protests in Serbia.

The MP, Aleksandar Martinovic, showed photos of the adolescents at protests in Novi Sad and Belgrade to a press conference on Tuesday and again that evening during a television appearance.

Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Darko Vojinovic/AP


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Serbia’s Minister of Interior, Nebojsa Stefanovic, said on Thursday that the anti-government protests in Belgrade and other Serbian cities are political, adding that the demands of protesters are “extremely political,” Beta news agency reported.

He called the protest organisers to cooperate with the police that regulate traffic and also "to take care of other people."

However, the protesters claim there are no official organisers behind the demonstrations.

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Head of Serbian opposition New Party, Zoran Zivkovic, said on Thursday that if anything happens to any of the children who had their photos shown to the public by an MP of the ruling Progressive Party, he’ll consider the Prime Minister and Progressives’ leader Aleksandar Vucic directly responsible.

Zivkovic was among the politicians and journalists who had photos of themselves and their children at the anti-government protests in Serbia shown on television by Progressive MP Aleksandar Martinovic on Tuesday.

“These photos…are illegal for public publishing, especially not with a bunch of lies that [Serbian Minister of Interior Nebojsa] Stefanovic and [MP of Progressives Aleksandar] Martinovic told along with them,” Zivkovic said, according to Beta news agency.

April 12, 2017


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Serbia’s acting Ombudsman, Milos Jankovic, initiated a control procedure at the Belgrade Institute for Emergency Medical Assistance on Wednesday, after the Institute claimed that its emergency vehicles are unable to reach downtown Belgrade because of anti-government protests.

“Public gatherings in the city centre cannot serve as justification for not providing services that are of vital importance for the lives of citizens,” Jankovic said in a statement.

The Institute claimed on Tuesday that they are unable to intervene in central city streets between 6pm and 9pm due to the traffic blockade caused by rallies against Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic.

Protesters used the “Against Dictatorship” Facebook page, on which each night’s protests have been announced, to issue a response, denying that they are obstructing emergency services.

Soon after the Institute published its claim, a video emerged showing the protesters allowing an ambulance vehicle to pass unobstructed during one of the rallies.

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Serbian tabloids Informer and the Serbian Telegraph accused the opposition on Wednesday of planning violence and the burning of institutions in the country.
 
Informer’s front page article claimed that the opposition is planning violence "before Easter", and added that Vucic’s rivals in the presidential candidates on April 2, Sasa Jankovic, Vuk Jeremic and Bosko Obradovic, are planning to radicalise the anti-government protests being held nightly in towns and cities across Serbia.
 
"They want to cause fights and more massive demonstrations before Easter," Informer wrote in its Wednesday edition.
 
Meanwhile, the Serbian Telegraph accused a senior official from the opposition Democratic Party, Goran Jesic, of calling for the burning of parliament – claims that Jesic immediately dismissed on his Twitter account.

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Serbia’s Ministry of Interior said that a video that emerged of alleged ballot-stuffing in favour of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic at the April 2 presidential elections was a joke and not election fraud.
 
The video was made by a man from a village near the western city of Novi Pazar, three days after the elections, as a joke, and was filmed in his house with a fake election box and ballots, the ministry explained on Tuesday in a press release.
 
The video was widely shared on social networks and Serbian police launched an investigation into the content on Tuesday.

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Members of Nezavisnost, one of the biggest umbrella trade unions in Serbia, called for the resignation of two of the editors of Serbia’s national broadcaster, RTS, because of how the media outlet is reporting on the anti-government protests that have swept Serbia since the April 2 presidential election.
 
Aside from demanding that editors Nenad Lj.Stefanovic and Sasa Brbulovic step down, the union asked in its press release on Tuesday for the media and ethical code to be respected, and for RTS to sign a legally binding obligation to report objectively and truthfully.

April 11, 207


 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Members of the Sloga union will join anti-government protests in Belgrade, demanding an end to political influence on state companies and the withdrawal of the Labour Law, which they claim is unjust. Read more: Trade Unionists Join Serbian Anti-Govt Protests

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Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic said on Tuesday that the peaceful atmosphere at the anti-Vucic protests held nightly in several Serbian cities and towns since the April 2 presidential elections is a good thing, and noted that there are a broad mix of people at the demonstrations.
 
Nikolic told Kurir daily that among those who are protesting, people are doing so “because of unemployment, someone [else] because [he or she] is not paid, someone because their candidate didn't win, someone because [he or she] is young, full of resistance and rebellion.”
 
He called for people’s right to protest to be respected, as well as the constitution, adding that Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won the elections and "no protests can't threaten the victory".

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Questions have been raised about whether footage allegedly showing men filling a ballot box with votes for PM Aleksandar Vucic is genuine or not, but police have launched a probe. Read more: Serbian Police Probe Alleged Election Fraud Video

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The President of the Serbian Parliament, Maja Gojkovic, announced that a new session of parliament will be held on April 19, public broadcaster RTS reported on Tuesday.
 
This is the first session of the Parliament since the April 2 presidential elections.
 
According to RTS, on the agenda will be laws on biomedical assisted fertilization and transfusion medicine.

Serbian Parliament. Photo: Wikimedia/Djordje Stakic

April 10, 2017

Thousands of demonstrators gathered in several Serbian towns and cities on Monday, as part of an ongoing mass action protesting Aleksandar Vucic's election victory and calling for the government and other public officials to quit. Read more: Serbia Protests: Thousands Demand Vucic’s Resignation 

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Anti-Vucic protests reveal deep divisions in the media in Serbia, with some trying to downplay the protests and accusing the opposition of planning violence on the streets. Read more: Serbian Media Accused of Downplaying Protests

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Influential US newspaper New York Times says Aleksandar Vucic won presidential election on back of ‘severely curtailed press freedom’ and warns against growing tendency to see ‘strongmen’ as force for stability. Read more: NYT Warns Against Vucic ‘Autocracy’ in Serbia

April 9, 2017

Serbia’s electoral commission was forced to hold a televised recount of some votes after opposition challenger Sasa Jankovic disputed PM Aleksandar Vucic’s poll results in 25 constituencies. Read moreSerbian Presidency Candidates Spar Over 'Poll Irregularities'

April 9, 8

April 8, 2017

In the latest of a series of protests against the election of Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic as president, Serbian army and police union representatives rallied thousands of protesters in Belgrade. Read moreThousands Gather in New Anti-Govt Rally in Belgrade

April 7, 2017

As the media and government put out theories about who is behind the anti-Vucic protests in Serbia, students say they will continue to take to the streets until their demands are met. Read moreSerbian Students Keep up Pressure on ‘Vucic Dictatorship’

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Aleksandar Vucic may have won the presidential race hands down - but the election campaign was so unequal as to raise serious questions about his legitimacy. Read more: Shadows Hang Already Over Vucic’s Victory in Serbia

April 5, 2017

Thousands of people took the streets of Belgrade and Novi Sad for the third day in a row to protest against the government and its leader Aleksandar Vucic. Read more: Anti-Government Protests Continue in Belgrade, Novi Sad

April 4, 2017

Thousands of people protested in towns across Serbia against what they call the “dictatorship” of Aleksandar Vucic, the president-elect and current prime minister. Read moreAnti-Vucic Protests Spread Across Serbia

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Balkan countries experienced democratic setbacks in 2016 because of corruption, political interference in the justice system and uncompetitive elections, said a Freedom House report. Read more: Freedom House: Balkan States Hit by Democratic Setbacks

April 3, 2017

Thousands of people took to the streets of Belgrade and other cities in Serbia to protest against the victory in Sunday's presidential election of Aleksandar Vucic, claiming it marked the beginning of a 'dictatorship'. Read more: Protesters in Serbia Denounce Vucic's Poll Victory

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Political analysts said Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s presidential election victory gives him almost unassailable power and means the opposition must change its strategy. Read more: Election Win ‘Toughens Vucic’s Grip on Serbia’

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