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NYT Warns Against Vucic ‘Autocracy’ in Serbia

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.
Aleksandar Vucic. Photo: Slobodan Miljevic / Beta

As US Senator John McCain arrived in Belgrade on Monday for meetings with Serbian leaders in which Kosovo-Serbian relations will be in focus, one of America’s most influential media outlets, the New York Times, has delivered a blistering verdict on Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic’s triumph in the recent presidential election, saying Serbia has “edged closer to autocracy”.

In an article bylined by “the editorial board” – representing the opinion of the newspaper rather than that of a single contributor – the NYT said his election “bodes ill for Serbian democracy” as he has already “severely curtailed press freedom and marginalized political opposition”.

The election was “marred by accusations of voter intimidation and a near total domination of Serbia’s media by Mr Vucic and his [Serbian Progressive] party”, it added.

The newspaper went on to warn against a tendency on the part of some Western leaders to see in politicians like Vucic “a force for stability”, adding that, “To accede to such control by Mr Vucic would be a betrayal of the European Union’s core value”.

Vucic’s consolidation of power in Serbia comes at a time of growing concern about authoritarianism in Eastern Europe, in Hungary and Poland especially, and in Turkey, where a referendum takes place next week on increasing the powers of Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan.

At a time of heightened tension between the US and Russia over Syria, Vucic’s close ties to the Kremlin are also under scrutiny in Washington.