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Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 18 January 2019

Serbian protesters maintain pressure on president in Belgrade

Around 25,000 people joined the rally for a fourth week of anti-government demonstrations in the capital

Thousands of people marched in Serbia against President Aleksandar Vucic and his government. EPA
Thousands of people marched in Serbia against President Aleksandar Vucic and his government. EPA

Serbian protesters piled more pressure on president Aleksandar Vucic on Saturday as thousands turned out for a fourth week of anti-government demonstrations in Belgrade.

Around 25,000 people joined the rally, according to an AFP reporter.

“This is a citizen’s demonstration against the situation in the country, which has been economically and politically complicated, even critical, for a long time,” protester Vladimir Tosic told AFP.

He and most other demonstrators marched without incident or overt signs of political affiliation in the centre of the capital, with some chanting “Vucic, thief” or waving placards that said ‘Enough lies’.

Many blew whistles, a symbol of Serb protests since former strongman Slobodan Milosevic held power in the 1990s.

Mr Tosic, who is in his 50s, said the latest protest “united normal Belgrade inhabitants who have come out to voice despair with the situation”.

Mr Vucic, a hardline nationalist-turned-European, is accused by the opposition and civil society of having established autocratic rule and total control over media, using them to campaign against opponents.

The protests represent the biggest challenge to his rule, and were first called by opposition parties after one of their leaders was beaten ahead of a political gathering in central Serbia last month.

The opposition Alliance for Serbia (SZS), an umbrella of parties from across the political spectrum, accused the attackers of being supporters of Mr Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), a claim the authorities denied.

Commenting this week on the protests the Serb president said he was “ready to listen to the citizens who are demonstrating but not to opposition liars.”

In its latest report on Serbia, the European Parliament “strongly” encouraged authorities in Belgrade to “improve the situation regarding freedom of expression and freedom of the media”.

Updated: December 30, 2018 11:16 AM

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