Politics

Thousands rally in Belgrade to protest alleged electoral fraud in Serbia

Zagreb, Dec 30 (EFE).- Tens of thousands of Serbs demonstrated on Saturday in the center of Belgrade against alleged fraud in the Dec. 17 elections.

The protesters accuse the right-wing Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) – co-founded by the current populist president, Aleksandar Vucic, in power since 2012 – of rigging the vote.

Protests organized by the opposition and student groups have been held every day since the election.

“We do not accept the falsification of the electoral will, we do not accept the invalidation of democracy and the rule of law, and we do not accept the birth of a naked autocracy in Serbia,” a spokesman for the initiative behind the protest said on Serbian broadcaster N1.

The protest initiative ProGlas, as well as the opposition coalition “Serbia Against Violence” (SPN) and more than 20 human rights NGOs are calling for the legislative and local elections held earlier this month to be annulled and repeated in about six months.

They also want an independent review of the reported irregularities, with international mediation.

Opposition leader, Marinika Tepic, who has been on hunger strike for 14 days in protest against the alleged fraud, addressed the rally to call for the elections to be “annulled”.

Her colleague Radomir Lazovic added that “the elections have been stolen, so we demand their repetition under fair conditions, with a regulated electoral roll and without fictitious voters.”.

The protest was attended by students who had organized a 24-hour blockade since noon Friday of a main Belgrade artery to demand the publication and revision of the electoral roll.

In the polls on Dec. 17, a new national Parliament was elected, while municipal elections were held in 65 cities, including the capital Belgrade.

At the national level, President Vucic’s SNS won with 47% of the votes, twice that garnered by SPN.

The SPN also lost by a small margin in the capital, where it expected to win the race for mayor.

Numerous irregularities in the electoral process have also been denounced by observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the European Parliament and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, as well as by Transparency International.

These entities have criticized Vucic’s control of the media, defamation of the opposition, abuse of public resources, as well as pressure on voters, including vote buying.

Serbian NGOs claim that the electoral lists were manipulated to enable a massive “migration of voters” within the country and from the Bosnian Republika Srpska to vote for the SNS in local elections.

Vucic has rejected the accusations as totally unfounded, and the prime minister, Ana Brnabic, thanked Russian intelligence for warning her that the opposition had allegedly been preparing since before the elections to organize disorder to overthrow the legal government. EFE

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