Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, who has dominated Serbian politics for the past decade, has remade Serbia, while critics accuse him of having consolidated power in his own hands and eroded democratic institutions, reported the British BBC.
“To supporters, he is a pragmatic leader who overcame Serbia’s deep divides and presided over sustained economic growth. Critics complain he consolidated power in his own hands and undermined democratic norms,” the BBC said in its article “The Man Who Remade Serbia”, written by Ido Vock in London and Jovana Georgievski in Belgrade.
The article also said that Vučić last month called early parliamentary and local elections for December 17, amid mass protests at home and international demands to resolve Serbia’s longstanding conflict with Kosovo.
The Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) he led for more than 10 years until this year looks set to be returned to power, but a united opposition’s victory in Belgrade could irrevocably dent Vučić’s authority, reported the BBC.
His biggest test in the December 17 elections will come from Belgrade, where the Serbia Against Violence coalition is riding high in the polls and hopes to win control of the capital, reported the BBC.
Vucic supporters reject are quick to point to the Vučić era as one of unprecedented growth, of a post-communist country overshadowed by war becoming an advanced, European economy. Marko Čadež, head of the Serbian Chamber of Commerce, credits his economic policies with doubling Serbia’s GDP over the past decade. “Aleksandar Vučić knows the art of politics,” he says and adds: “He conducted reforms that weren’t easy or pleasant.”
Recalling details from Vučić’s biography, the BBC said, among other things, that, influenced by Serbian ultra-nationalism and football hooliganism, Vučić joined the far-right Radical Party at the age of 23.
It added that, days after the Srebrenica massacre in July 1995, he said “You kill one Serb and we will kill 100 Muslims.”
The BBC noted that, in 1998, Yugoslav strongman Slobodan Milošević made Vučić his information minister and that Vučić was responsible for implementing some of Europe’s most restrictive laws on freedom of speech. The watchdog Freedom House today ranks the country he leads as only “partly free”.
After Vučić and other former members of the Radicals founded the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) in 2008, he underwent a public change of heart, renouncing his previous ultra-nationalism and pledging to take Serbia into the European Union, wrote Vock and Georgievski.
Once he came back to power in 2012, Vučić’s progress up the ranks of Serbian politics was swift and, having risen to the top, he consolidated his rule. Opponents say he did so by eroding democratic institutions in a manner reminiscent of the authoritarianism of the 1990s, reported the BBC.
The British Broadcasting Corporation also cited Florian Bieber, an expert on Serbian nationalism at the University of Graz as saying that the government in Serbia “is in nearly complete control of all levels of public institutions and the media.”
“Vučić supporters reject that characterization, seeing his domination of Serbian politics as down to successful governance. They point to the Vučić era as one of unprecedented growth, of a post-communist country overshadowed by war becoming an advanced, European economy,” reported the BBC.
(N1, the BBC, 12.12.2023)
This post is also available in: Italiano