Protests continue in Belgrade

The protests in Belgrade triggered by President Vučić's new lockdown announcement continue apace. After two nights of riots, thousands of people gathered for a peaceful protest outside the parliament building on Thursday. Commentators discuss the protesters' motivation and criticise the lack of a common cause.

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Delo (SI) /

A few demonstrations won't be enough

Delo believes the situation won't ease up so quickly:

“For the first time, the government has cracked down on the demonstrators. Police officers armed to the teeth even beat up people who weren't even taking part in the rallies. Vučić will try to defuse the tensions, but he doesn't have much leeway. The spontaneous gatherings of people will not end overnight. And despite coronavirus people will no longer be satisfied with demonstrations, online petitions and silent obedience. Serbia is headed for turbulent times.”

Libertatea (RO) /

Protest of helplessness

The people have had enough, writes Romanian poltical analyst Sorin Ioniță in Libertatea:

“President Aleksandar Vučić is hypocritically calling on the people to keep calm and avoid extreme behaviour. He who constructed his entire political career on nationalist and anti-European discourse, peppered with conspiracies in order to gain votes from the far right as well as the left Narodniki. ... The people are confused, however, after a celebrity like Novak Djokovic, the number 1 in the world tennis rankings, made a laughing stock of himself, a kind of Borat, by organising collective coronavirus infection meetings in front of the national flag. The citizens now see no alternative to violent protest, even though there's no consensus on what course should be taken.”

Azonnali (HU) /

Youths, families, hooligans

The demonstrators' motives are not entirely clear, Azonnali says:

“The anger was not caused by the prevailing conditions alone, but above all also by the regime's irresponsible policies. While in the afternoon it was mostly young people and families who stood in front of the parliament in Belgrade demanding that Vučić finally inform the public about the true dimensions of the pandemic, by the evening the football hooligans, the far-right opponents of the regime had already turned up. ... Although [most] opponents of Vučić want a free Serbia, what they mean by that is a state that will form even closer ties with Moscow and win back Kosovo.”

Duma (BG) /

The wrong cause

The Serbs are protesting against their own interests, the pro-Russian daily Duma criticises:

“With all due sympathy for the people's democratic right to public protest, the unrest of the past few days in Serbia can hardly generate any sympathy or support. The motivation behind it is simply wrong and socially toxic. They oppose the planned tightening of measures against the spread of the coronavirus and the return to lockdown. This gives the impression that the Serbs are demonstrating against their own right to health. Are you angry that the government won't grant you the freedom to fall ill?”

Népszava (HU) /

Citizens are right to ask for an apology

The anger of the demonstrators is entirely understandable, says Népszava:

“The demonstrators took to the streets because of Vučić's curfew, which lasted from Friday to Monday. Vučić was actually right to take this measure, because the pandemic is taking on alarming proportions in Serbia. ... But only one person bears the responsibility for the second wave: Vučić himself. ... At the start of May, early elections were announced for June 21. From then on all restrictions were suddenly abolished. ... The political benefits were regarded as more important than people's health. The number of Covid cases then soared. Certainly, the demonstrators can also be criticised. But their anger is understandable. All they wanted from Vučić was a single word, but a very important one: Sorry!”

Jutarnji list (HR) /

EU believes it needs Vučić

Those who believe the EU will now side with Vučić's opponents are very mistaken, Jutarnji list writes:

“Rightly or not, the EU believes that it needs Vučić to solve the problem of relations between Serbia and Kosovo, and that nobody else in Serbia can solve this problem now or in the near future. To that end they apparently need a strong Vučić and are willing to tolerate Serbia's sliding in the direction of totalitarianism. Some circles within the EU also criticise Vučić, but they're mostly from the opposition and belong to the centre-left or liberal camp. Vučić has the support of the European Union and above all of the largest political group, the European People's Party.”