Serbian opposition parties launch parliament boycott in support of protests

Serbian opposition parties launch parliament boycott in support of protests
By Valentina Dimitrievska in Skopje February 11, 2019

Serbian opposition groups and parties started a boycott of the parliament on February 11 to support the protests against President Aleksandar Vucic and his ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS), the Alliance for Serbia announced.

The boycott came after nationwide protests, dubbed “1 of 5 million” were held for the tenth weekend on February 9. The protests have been organised every Saturday since December 8 and were sparked by the attack on opposition politician Borko Stefanovic in the town of Krusevac. They further escalated after Vucic said that he would not agree to protesters' demands even if there were five million people on the street.

The opposition MPs, gathered under the umbrella of Alliance for Serbia, will boycott sessions, but will stay in the Assembly hall.

The boycott will last until conditions for holding free and democratic elections are met, the Alliance for Serbia said in the statement.

“Our lamakers and councillors will continue to fight for the interests of citizens outside the institutions. The first next step will be the establishment of an Association of Free MPs, which should enable the cooperation and coordination of councillors during the boycott of local Assemblies,” the statement said.

Deputy head of the People's Party Miroslav Aleksic said that the system in Serbia is collapsing and there are no functional institutions.

Alliance for Serbia said that its aim is to change the system and “return the culture of dialogue, the rule of law, and political competence and normality" in the country.

In a response to the protests, Vucic started a campaign called "Future of Serbia” last week, which is seen as a hint of a snap election possibly in spring.

According to opinion polls, Vucic would likely win another mandate.

The next general vote is scheduled for 2020.

Vucic, formerly a member of the nationalist Serbian Radical Party, joined the now governing SNS, formed by ex-deputy leader of the Radical Party, Tomislav Nikolic, in 2008. Vucic’s political orientation has changed dramatically, and he now prioritises reforms and Serbia’s entry to the EU.

Vucic was elected president in April 2017 and he took office in May last year. His election sparked protests across Serbia and he was accused of leading the country towards authoritarianism.

The boycott will not affect the work of the parliament, as Vucic's ruling coalition has a majority of 160 MPs in the 250-seat parliament, but could undermine its credibility.