Serbia’s head of state is facing a heterogeneous opposition, which underlines his contradictions with regard to the West and the Kosovo conflict.
For the seventh time since the beginning of May, tens of thousands of Serbs are expected to take to the streets of Belgrade on Saturday June 17 to protest against their president. In power since 2014 as prime minister, then head of state, Aleksandar Vucic, 53, is facing a protest movement of unprecedented scale and duration. Demonstrators accuse him of promoting an “atmosphere of violence”, which is said to have indirectly provoked two killings in early May.
The double tragedy, which left eighteen people dead – including nine children murdered by a classmate in their school in the capital – has left this Balkan country in shock. For some of the country’s 6.7 million Serbs, the emotion has turned into an anger that won’t let up.
“They are demonstrating to stop the violence that is part of our society,” explains Dragan Djilas, president of the Social Democratic Party of Freedom and Justice, which co-organizes the demonstrations with other pro-European opposition movements – although elements of the pro-Russian far right are also regularly present. “In the streets, there are many young people, teachers, artists who finally want a normal life and for Serbia to focus on its European path.”
Tired of seeing their country obsessed with the wars of former Yugoslavia (1991-1999) and penetrated by an over-armed mafia, these Serbs boldly compare their movement to the protests that led to the fall of dictator Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Called “Serbia against violence”, the movement has a long list of demands, including the resignation of the interior minister and the head of the intelligence services; but, more broadly, the demonstrators want to put an end to the apology for violence present in the many propaganda organs of the government. Triumphantly re-elected in April 2022 with over 60% of the vote, Mr. Vucic has certainly promised to “almost totally disarm” Serbs in the face of the widespread circulation of firearms, but the demonstrators are not backing him.