European Western Balkans

Ruling parties stage rally in Belgrade, no compromise with opposition in sight

Aleksandar Vučić at the rally; Photo: Presidency of Serbia

BELGRADE – Neither of the opposition demands for fair electoral conditions was addressed during yesterday’s round of “The Future of Serbia”, a country-wide campaign organized by the ruling parties as a response to anti-government protests.

“Conflicts are not our goal, even with those that are much less numerous than us, who have threatened us in many ways. The differences are resolved through elections, and there are also people on the other side who wish good for our country, with whom we should find a common ground”, stated President of Serbia Aleksandar Vučić in the capital.

However, he added that he will not give into “ultimatums” from those who are advocating violence, Tanjug reported.

Demands announced by the opposition on 13 April were formation of the joint commission between government and opposition for defining fair electoral conditions, election of new Regulatory Body for Electronic Media members, together with a new management of Radio-Television of Serbia.

Opposition coalition the Alliance for Serbia gave the government six days to respond to the demands, a deadline which expired on Friday. New round of protests, during which a “team of experts” that would discuss the implementation of the demands with the government will be introduced, is announced for Saturday.

Other speakers at the government’s rally also failed to address these issues, including Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Foreign Minister Ivica Dačić.

“Those who are dividing us gathered last Saturday at this place, and we again did not hear neither a plan nor a manifesto, no vision of any kind, just insults, swearing, threats and calls for divisions. This is not Serbia, and it will never be Serbia”, said Prime Minister Brnabić according to Tanjug.

Her Deputy and leader of the Socialist Party of Serbia, Minister Dačić, was also critical of the opposition leaders.

“Đilas, Jeremić, Obradović and Lutovac have Western and American media, support of the Western countries, they have everything. The only thing they lack is (support of) the people”, he said.

Dačić asserted that Vučić’s decision not to call extraordinary elections is only protecting the opposition. He urged the President not to do it any more, claiming that he misses the opportunity to speak in front of large numbers of people.

Ruling coalition allegedly managed to pull off a much higher attendance than opposition six days ago. While the government claimed that no more than 7000-8000 people had been present on 13 April, front pages of most of Serbia’s daily newspaper reported on Saturday that, according to police estimations, 150.000 citizens came to support the President – which implies that 20 times more people were present at the same square in front of the National Assembly.

Apart from the criticism of the opposition members, gathered citizens also had the opportunity to hear about Belgrade-Pristina dialogue, regional relations and Serbia’s EU integration from President Vučić, Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency member Milorad Dodik and Hungarian Minister of Foreign Affairs Péter Szijjártó.

Talking about the forthcoming meeting with the delegation from Pristina in Berlin, Vučić emphasized that Serbia will not make any further amends until the tariffs imposed by the Government of Ramush Haradinaj are revoked.

However, he also hinted at his readiness to be more flexible. “My job is to secure peace. We Serbs had maybe the most wars in the world during the 20th century, I want no wars in the 21st century. We should not forget our heroes, but also make room for new ones”, said Vučić, referring to inventors and entrepreneurs.

He compared Serbia to Germany, which, despite not consisting of some of its historic territories, such as parts of Prussia or Strasbourg, is still one of the most powerful countries in the world.

Vučić also talked about the need to improve relations with some countries of the region, including Montenegro, North Macedonia, Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina, so that they could resemble strong relationship shared with other neighbours, such as Hungary.

His point was underlined by the presence of Minister of Foreign Affairs of Hungary, Péter Szijjártó, who addressed the crowd in Serbian, claiming that the relations between the two countries have never been better.

“Current President of Serbia, Prime Minister of Hungary, leaders of Fidesz and Serbian Progressive Party and the Alliance of Hungarians in Vojvodina – they have all contributed to this. We are grateful for that”, said Szijjártó, referring to the alliance of the two ruling parties in Serbia and Hungary, both of which were members of the European People’s Party until the recent suspension of Victor Orban.

Szijjártó added that political stability is paramount for both Hungary and Serbia and that Serbia deserves to become an EU member as soon as possible, Tanjug reported.

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