Donald Tusk supports Serbian President ahead of elections, opposition leader responds

Donald Tusk; Photo: European Union

BRUSSELS / BELGRADE – President of the European People’s Party (EPP) Donald Tusk tweeted support and praise of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić before the parliamentary elections on 21 June, causing strong reactions on the social network and an open letter of the opposition leader Dragan Đilas.

“A friendly discussion with Aleksandar Vučić ahead of the Serbian election. Dear President, you have full right to be proud and satisfied with what you have done for Serbia during your term. Economic success and strong leadership constitute the trademark of your rule. Good luck on Sunday”, Tusk wrote in a Tweet on Monday.

Vučić’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) is an associate member of the European People’s Party. It is expected to achieve a landslide victory in the parliamentary and local elections on Sunday, which will be boycotted by the Alliance for Serbia, strongest opposition coalition. According to the opinion polls, only SNS and junior partner in the coalition government, Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) are sure to cross the threshold and enter the parliament.

Tusk’s tweet has caused strong reactions on Twitter, with the commentators pointing out the ruling party’s negative record in the areas of democracy and media freedom.

Professor of Southeast European History and Politics at the University of Graz Florian Bieber pointed out that Vučić is not up for election, even though he dominants the campaign, adds and the electoral list is called “Aleksandar Vučić-For our children”.

“His (Tusk’s) statement is endorsing the extra-constitutional hyper-presidentialism”, wrote Bieber.

Bieber also reminded that Serbia dropped significantly in the rankings of democracy-tracking organisations such as Freedom House and V-Dem Institute.

“With uncritical statements like this, Donald Tusk loses any credibility to criticize the Fidesz or PIS government. It is enabling authoritarianism and undermining the credibility of the EU and its values”, Bieber wrote.

Opposition leader Dragan Đilas: Vučić is undermining EU and promoting China

In a reaction to Tusk’s tweet, Dragan Đilas leader of the opposition Freedom and Justice Party which, as a part of the Alliance for Serbia, will boycott the elections on 21 June, wrote that Serbian Progressive Party has curtailed media freedoms in the country and that Vučić has undermined the EU during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Serbia under Vučić is not a country of economic success, but a country with the lowest growth rate in the region, with the salaries of citizens among the lowest in Europe, with 60,000 people leaving the country annually, a country whose debt has increased by two-thirds, and which is being caught in debt bondage to China”, wrote Đilas in an open letter published by EURACTIV.

He stressed that Serbian opposition has not been featured in the national media for eight years, and that Vučić had 292 times more positive coverage than all opposition leaders combined.

Dragan Đilas; Photo: SSP

“If you really want to know what Serbia has become under the leadership of Vučić, you can ask Aleksandar Obradović, the arrested whistleblower from “Krušik”, Ana Lalić, the arrested journalist, or Milan Jovanović, a journalist who survived an assassination attempt when his house was set on fire, for which an associate of Vučić has been indicted”, he wrote.

Đilas also pointed out that Vučić kissed the Chinese flag in the middle of Europe, and brings dirty technology, as well as face recognition cameras, from China to Serbia.

“Do you know that 97% of our citizens, who are informed through the public television service controlled by Vučić, think that China saved Serbia during the coronavirus epidemic? Are you aware that our government has taken unfavourable loans from China amounting to billions, which will be repaid through several generations?”, Đilas wrote.

He concluded wit the assertion that democracy has been attacked by the regime, and the elections are neither legal nor legitimate.

“It is clear that there is nothing in Serbia to congratulate Vučić on. The recent history of Serbia shows that Aleksandar Vučić is a political convert who tries to hide the true nature of his rule. If you are not ready to see this and say it out loud, please do not help him in hiding it from the eyes of the European public”, Đilas wrote.