European Western Balkans

Vučić says that curfew may not be enforced after all, gives his own interpretation of the protest

Aleksandar Vučić; Photo: GLOBSEC 2019

BELGRADE – Following last night’s protest in the capital of Serbia, which was triggered by the announcement of President Aleksandar Vučić that the new weekend-long curfew would be enforced this week, the measure will probably not be introduced after all.

This was confirmed by Vučić during his press conference held on Wednesday afternoon. The President of Serbia said that the final decision on the new measures will be made tomorrow. He added that the Government will probably opt for stricter measures, but not a curfew, adding that he is personally still in favour of it.

According to the Constitution of Serbia, it its the Government, not the President, that has complete authority over the anti-pandemic measures. Throughout the course of the epidemic in Serbia, however, Vučić has for the most part been the one announcing the introduction of the new measures.

During the press conference, the President also stated that yesterday night saw “brutal political violence” which, according to him, was carried out by the extremist right-wing groups and had nothing to do with the COVID-19 crisis. Without revealing any evidence, Vučić stated that “foreign secret services” had a role in the organisation of the protest.

“These people were not talking about Corona – they talked about some kind of a betrayal, migrants, the 5G network and the flat Earth, and these people were not there for the first time, only the degree of aggression was higher,” said Vučić.

He also dismissed the claim of a man who stated that he is protesting because his father had died of COVID-19 due to the lack of ventilators as a lie and said that the man had previously been arrested.

According to EWB reporter who was present during the protest, a smaller group of protesters indeed made its way to the steps of the National Assembly at one point, chanting nationalist slogans against the Government. This was not, however, the majority of the protesters, who remained on the boulevard in front of the Assembly and the park across it and did not join the chanting.

Among the protesters was also the right-wing MP Srđan Nogo, as well as several other politicians, including People’s Party leader Vuk Jeremić. None of them, however, addressed the citizens nor invited them to participate. There were no leaders of the protest.

The group described by the President as right wing extremists clashed with the police, but once the crowd dispersed following the tear gas bombs, it became impossible to determine the ideological background of the protesters who continued to clash with the police individually or in small groups.

During the clashes, several people interviewed by N1 television confirmed that they were present because of their dissatisfaction with the way Government has handled the COVID-19 crisis.

That there is great dissatisfaction with the Government precisely over COVID-19 measures, which appear to be shifting from the strictest in Europe to a complete absence and back, has been apparent for weeks.

During the visit of Prime Minister Ana Brnabić and Health Minister Zlatibor Lončar to the city of Novi Pazar, numerous citizens and medical workers protested over the dire situation in their city.

On 2 July, hours after President Vučić announced that the student dormitories might be closed during the exam period, hundreds of students gathered in front of the National Assembly of Serbia, leading to the revoking of the measure.

In the meantime, several doctors came out to the public saying that the situation with the medical equipment and the exhaustion of staff is much more serious than reported, while Balkan Investigative Research Network released its findings on what appears to be a major cover-up of COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Opposition parties and the increasing number of medical professionals continue to criticise the Government for revoking all the measures in early May, claiming that it did that just so that it can hold June 21 elections in a relaxed atmosphere, after which the number of cases skyrocketed.

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