Serbia’s Protest Wave Moves Into Third Month

Participants of the anti-government protest. Photo: BIRN

Serbia’s Protest Wave Moves Into Third Month

February 9, 2019
February 9, 2019
As anti-government demonstrations enter a third month in Serbia, marked by fresh rallies across the country and in parts of Kosovo, the opposition remains under pressure to define a coherent response.

The protest in Belgrade was matched or preceded by marches in many other towns and cities in the past few days, where people also highlighted local issues, blaming the policies of the ruling Progressive Party.

For the second time, with a high level of security, a “1 of 5 million” march was held also in Kosovo, this time in the mainly ethnic Serbian town of Gracanica in central Kosovo.

The events have rallied a majority of opposition leaders. Many members of these parties attend the rallies, but without displaying any party insignia.

But the protests have put opposition parties in Serbia under the spotlight to explain how they would do things differently.

At a rally held on January 19, protesters urged opposition politicians to do more to earn the trust of the protesters.

Opposition parties of different ideologies, gathered in the Alliance of Serbia, on February 6 presented their answer in the form of an “Agreement With the People”.

In this document, the parties expressed a joint commitment to defend the freedom of the media and ensure free and fair elections.

They promised not to participate in any elections, or in the work of the current parliament, until those criteria are met.

They agreed further on the need to form a joint election list for future fair elections, and to work on forming a transitional “expert” government with a one-year mandate, after which elections would take place.

The document said the opposition would continue to fight for the democratization of Serbia, and would review the current government’s actions.

“We commit ourselves to disclose and review all the acts adopted so far and [those] which the current non-democratic regime will adopt [in future] that endanger state, national and economic affairs,” the document said.

The document was criticized on socials networks, however.

Mainly this was for its failure to outline a plan to resolve the issue of Serbia’s relations to the former province of Kosovo, which declared independence in 2008 – or define a clear stance towards Serbia’s EU integration.

The protests have attracted the support of people of very different profiles, including university professors and students, as well as artists, actors, lawyers and other public figures.

But some people come to the rallies mainly to highlight personal or local issues.

They began after an incident on November 23 2018, when an opposition politician, Borko Stefanovic, was attacked in the southern town of Krusevac.

The protests are formally organized by a group called “Protest Against Dictatorship”, which organized earlier mass protests after Vucic was elected President in April 2016.

March begins. Photo: BIRN.

Postal workers carry banner against the state-owned company’s politically appointed director. Photo: BIRN.

A protest was also held in the town of Gracanica in Kosovo: Photo: BIRN.

Protesters carry toilet paper as a critical message for Dragan Bujosevic, general director of Serbia’s national broadcaster, RTS. Photo: BIRN.

Protesters wrapped tape with the word “Censored” around the entrance to the pro-government daily Politika. Photo: BIRN.

Protesters with torches at the RTS building. Photo: BIRN.

Sign calls for RTS workers to “Get out into the streets” and join the protest. Photo: BIRN.

Entrance to the Serbian government building taped off. Photo: BIRN.

Protester raises fist in defiance at the government building. Photo: BIRN.

Protester carrying a sign that says “Rise again, Justice”. Photo: BIRN.