While tens of thousands of people gathered again in the capital Belgrade for a demonstration against Vucic and the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), an SNS party congress on Saturday approved Vucic’s proposed change in leadership. The 53 year oldwhom critics accuse of an autocratic style of politics and favoritism, explained that he wanted to use this step to overcome the divisions in the country.
“For the Victory of Patriotic Serbia”
At the same time, Vucic announced the establishment of a political umbrella organization to which the nationalist SNS should join. “A slightly different approach is needed to unite a larger number of those who want to fight for the victory of patriotic Serbia,” he said. By that he means “a country that is not looking for reasons for division, but for unity and togetherness”.
After two rampages in early May that killed a total of 18 people, there were repeated large-scale demonstrations.
According to the protesters, the government is not taking decisive action against violence, against the country’s widespread private gun ownership and against organized crime. Corruption and restrictions on media freedom are also criticized.
At the rally on Saturday in Belgrade, which was again attended by tens of thousands despite the rainy weather, participants demanded the resignation of Vucic as head of state and other leading government officials.
Under the impression of the protests organized by the opposition in recent weeks, Vucic secured the support of tens of thousands of supporters at a large demonstration on Friday and announced his resignation from the SNS chairmanship there.
More than a decade at the top
Vucic has been at the top of the party since 2012 and has been President since 2017. The SNS is seen as the mainstay of his power, while the presidency is essentially representative. His followers in the SNS include Defense Minister Vucevic and Prime Minister Ana Brnabic. Vucic maintains close ties with Russia and China and has also declared EU membership as a goal.
In the tense relationship with Kosovo, whose independence Serbia does not recognize, Vucic’s talks with the Kosovar leadership in March had fueled hopes of a rapprochement. On Saturday, however, Vucic and Vucevic put the army on standby after renewed clashes between Serbs and Albanians in Kosovo.
haz/rb (rtr, afp, dpa)