Serbia Police announced the arrest of at least 38 individuals involved in protests against alleged irregularities in the recent general elections, which declared the governing populists as winners. The opposition group, Serbia Against Violence, has been leading demonstrations since the December 17 elections. They were accusing the government of election fraud, particularly in Belgrade.
Protests escalated on Sunday as hundreds attempted to enter Belgrade’s city council. It lead to clashes with riot police employing tear gas, pepper spray, and batons. Serbia Senior police official Ivica Ivkovic stated that those arrest face charges of inciting a violent change of constitutional order and violent behavior. Eight officers were reportedly injured during the clashes.
The opposition claims that the police used excessive force and physically assaulted its supporters. Despite warnings against road blockades, several hundred university students and citizens blocked traffic in Belgrade on Monday, with no reported incidents.
The ruling Serbian Progressive Party denies election rigging. They assert the fairness of the elections despite criticism from international monitors and local observers. President Aleksandar Vučić labeled Sunday’s protests as an attempt to overthrow the government with foreign assistance, without specifying details. Prime Minister Ana Brnabić expressed gratitude to Russia for forewarning Serbia about potential violent protests.
Protests Escalate Amid Allegations of Election Fraud and Government Crackdown
President Vučić alleges “irrefutable evidence” that the West is supporting opposition protests, according to Russian Ambassador Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko. Vučić referred to “mentors from abroad” influencing his political opponents leading the protests but provided no further details. He claimed that police officers and state property were “brutally” attacked by those seeking to undermine democracy.
Despite formally seeking EU membership, Serbia maintains close ties with Moscow and refrains from joining Western sanctions against Russia. Vučić’s party declared victory in both parliamentary and Belgrade city elections. While the opposition insists it was robbed of a win, especially in the capital.
International rights watchdogs observing the elections reported numerous irregularities, including bought votes and ballot-box stuffing. Unjust conditions for opposition candidates, media bias, abuse of public resources by the ruling party, and Vučić dominating campaign and media time were also noted.
Serbia Against Violence, in a letter to EU institutions, officials, and member nations, declared its refusal to recognize the election outcome and urged the EU to initiate an investigation into the results. The political situation in Serbia continues to draw international attention and raises concerns about the democratic process in the country.