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News 08 Apr 17

Thousands Gather in New Anti-Govt Rally in Belgrade

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.

Vanja Djuric, Filip Rudic

More than 15,000 people rallied in Belgrade on Saturday as the country’s army and police unions protested for better working conditions, higher wages and the establishment of the rule of law in the country, while others demanded that the government step down.

It was the latest in a series of daily rallies since Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic won presidential elections on April 2, and army and police union representatives were joined by protesters who accuse the premier of creating a ‘dictatorship’ in the country.

Veljko Mijailovic, the head of police union, alleged that security in the country was crumbling and the interior ministry was employing people with criminal records.

“The times when politicians would turn the army and police against its people are over. The army, the police and the people are in one place today,” Mijailovic told the protest in front of the government building.

Demonstrators chanted anti-Vucic slogans like “tyrant” and “betrayal”, then marched to Palace of Serbia, the headquarters of the interior ministry, and then to the parliament building, where the protest ended without incident.

As well as the army and police union representatives, young people, pensioners and other ordinary Belgraders who have been protesting against Vucic since he won the presidential elections, joined the march.

“[I am here] because of media ‘darkness’, because of dictatorship... We see what is happening and people have realised that we will be living like this for five more years,” Uros Rakonjac, one of the younger protesters, told BIRN.

Another protester, who works in a public company and declined to give his name, said many of his colleagues are too scared to join the protests, believing they could lose their jobs.

“[I am here] because I have six-year-old and a 13-year-old daughters and I want them to stay at home. Nothing else,” he told BIRN, referring to the fact that thousands of educated Serbs have left the country in recent years seeking better opportunities abroad.

The anti-government demonstrations started in Serbia a day after the presidential elections, with thousands of mainly young people protesting against Vucic’s rule in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Kragujevac and a dozen other Serbian towns.

Most of them are calling for the government to resign, along with top officials from the public broadcasters RTS and RTV, the Central Electoral Commission, and the regulatory Authority for Electronic Media.

They are also demanding the resignation of Maja Gojkovic, the speaker of parliament, who they claim broke the law when she prorogued parliament ahead of the presidential vote.

Vucic said on Saturday however that parliament will be returning to work soon, Beta news agency reported.

After the anti-Vucic protests started six days ago, Gojkovic, accused the protesters of preventing parliament from operating normally. 

Renewed rallies across Serbia are expected to start at 6pm on Sunday.

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