August 18, 2019 00:46 GMT
The 37th antigovernment protest “One 1 of 5 million” in Belgrade on August 17.
BELGRADE – Serbia’s mainstay antigovernment rally resumed on August 17 as hundreds of protesters gathered at Belgrade’s Terazijske fountain to march toward the presidential office with 42 demands for free and fair elections. Associated rallies were held in several other cities across the country.
As he promised, President Aleksandar Vucic had the protective metal fence removed from the building’s perimeter that was a prominent feature from last week’s protest where demonstrators came to call for his resignation. Then, ununiformed men beat a group of protesters who came to deliver their list of demands on August 10.
One of the organizers, Srdjan Markovic, was beaten and accused the president of employing hired goons to break up the rally. The president denied the allegation. Instead, female soldiers stood guard outside the president’s office at this week’s event. Protester’s interpreted the changing of the guard gesture as humiliating toward women. They yelled, “AV [Aleksandar Vucic], you’re hiding behind women…Stop lying, be normal.” A picture of Markovic being attacked on August 10 was also displayed.
Markovic called for a boycott of next April’s parliamentary elections and said there would be no negotiations held with the ruling power. “The elections would be like the beating last Saturday,” Markovic said. The antigovernment rallies began in December after leftist opposition leader Borko Stefanovic was brutally beaten up by masked attackers in central Serbia before a televised political debate.
Vucic later mocked the demonstrations, saying he wouldn’t fulfil the demands “even if five million of you come out.” Since then, government opponents have rallied every Saturday under the slogan “1 Out Of 5 Million.”
The public assemblies have since grown to denounce perceived political abuses of the ruling Serbian Progressive Party and the lack of media freedom in the country, and to demand the resignation of Vucic. Two weeks ago, on August 6, opposition leaders also announced that they will call for a boycott of the next parliamentary elections until all members of parliament resign.