Students lead protests in Belgrade amid election controversy

After the disputed general election in Serbia, university students in Belgrade have gone out onto the streets to express dissatisfaction over alleged voting irregularities.

2023 12 25T132345Z 1679489374 RC2C45ARGAHC RTRMADP 3 SERBIA ELECTION STUDENTS scaled
Students block the road, during a protest against alleged major election law violations in the Belgrade city and parliament races, in Belgrade, Serbia, December 25, 2023. REUTERS/Zorana Jevtic

A protest that took shape on Sunday involved several hundred students and citizens causing traffic on a vital Belgrade street leading to the government headquarters. 

The demonstration is part of continuing protests spearheaded by the opposition group Serbia Against Violence, accusing Belgrade authorities of cheating at elections, especially in the capital.

The results of the recent general ballot declared the governing populists victorious, and this has intensified discontent with the elections process. Sunday afternoon’s protest took a violent turn when some protesters tried to force their way into Belgrade’s city council building resulting in clashes with riot police. 

Riot police succeeded in pushing them back; however, according to reports, almost 40 people connected with the protests have been detained by Serbian police.

President Aleksandar Vucic, who was dismissing allegations of election irregularities as lies, labeled the demonstrations as an external plot to subvert the government. The recent clashes in Belgrade have further strained relations, with Serbia’s Prime Minister Ana Brnabic expressing gratitude to Russian security forces for suggesting Western involvement in the protests. 

“It probably won’t be popular with those from the West, but I feel especially tonight that it is important to stand up for Serbia and to thank the Russian security services that had that information and shared it with us,” Ms. Brnabic said.           

As tensions escalate, Serbia, while formally seeking EU membership, maintains close ties with Moscow, refusing to align with Western sanctions against Russia over the Ukraine conflict.

As the protests persist, the involvement of students points to the many-sided problems for Serbia where the younger generation takes an active stance against perceived electoral injustice and seeks a voice in shaping the nation’s political landscape. These developments also reflect the geo-political difficulties for Serbia caught between its European Union aspirations and long historical links with Russia.

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