The opposition bloc’s Alliance for Serbia (SZS) say that it has given a political ultimatum to Aleksandar Vucic’s regime and that it has set a deadline of 30 days for the current regime to leave and call free elections at all levels.
“We demand the immediate resignations of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic, Prime Minister, Ana Brnabic and the Speaker of the National Assembly, Maja Gojkovic. We are demanding elections at all levels to be held in six to nine months, free media reporting, and meeting the demands of the opposition for fair and honest elections,” the SZS’ statement said.
If these requests are not fulfilled, the SZS will hold a massive public protest in Belgrade on April 13th, which will be attended by people from all over Serbia.
Weighing out expectations
Although at first, it seemed that this news was copied from one of the satirical websites, the SZS is quite serious about its demands. After several months of protests in 90 Serbian towns, the SZS leaders have clearly found themselves reaching the milestone and are now most likely trying to exert some kind of new pressure on the authorities.
How much are the authorities upset about this ultimatum? Well, the total absence of reactions from the ruling coalition seems to tell it all. This, of course, can mean either the ruling coalition fearing what would the opposition do next, or that the atmosphere in the society is not so critical of the Serbian authorities.
Certain segments of the opposition are very optimistic and see this as the beginning of the end of the regime in Serbia, but, as Dragan Popovic, Director of the Centre for Practical Policy, says for Deutsche Welle, it is vital to have realistic expectations.
“I see this as an extraordinary move after a series of civil protests. They simply had to radicalize their demands after several months of protesting”, Popovic and adds: “On the other hand, this is a partial and risky move because it poses a lot of demands and raises expectations. I do not think that anybody expects the leaders of this regime to resign in one month.”
Authorities are not bothered?
So far, the authorities have not reacted at all to the opposition’s demands, and it seems that their tactics are that the proclamation and demands of the opposition are ignored for an indefinite period of time, both media- and politically-wise. Political analyst Dragomir Andjelkovic believes that the government certainly does not intend to meet the opposition’s demands, particularly those that concern the resignation of top officials.
“If they did that, they would shoot themselves in the foot and enter the election race admitting they were wrong. On the other hand, they would also indirect admit that the previous elections were not regular if they were to accept that the new elections are the ones that are fair and democratic”, Andjelkovic explains for DW.
The reaction of the authorities will, as before, be blatantly ignoring these demands, and if that turns out to be impossible, they will try to make the demands invisible or irrelevant in other ways”, Andjelkovic adds.
Protest, walk, fallout – what’s next?
The threat of a major protest in Belgrade on April 13, if the demands of the SZS are not met, is also a two-edged sword. Citizens’ dissatisfaction is strong, but it is still demonstrated outside of the political party framework. Dragomir Andjelkovic remembers the big opposition protests prior to 2012 and the arrival of the Serbian Progressive Party to power, which gathered a large number of people but did not cause the resignation of the then government.
Popovic observes that the extent of this protest depends primarily on what protestors expect from the protest.
“If protestors expect too much, I am afraid that they will be disappointed and that some loss of momentum will occur. But if they have realistic expectations, then this is just one step towards removing the regime,” Popovic says.
By announcing this protest, the opposition took on another risk, which is what to do after the protest. People turn out, protest and then go home.
“We had, as I have said, such cases in the past. What happens after such protests is usually that another kind of story will be promoted and some other kind of game playing will continue. This is politics!” Andjelkovic says.
Dragan Popovic says that even the best political strategists in Serbia could not answer the question “what happens next after the protests”. “I don’t think that this protest should be viewed as D Day or the new “October 5th”. The protestors should send a clear message to the authorities, and have realistic expectations,” Popovic notes.
(Vesti Online, Deutsche Welle, 14.03.2019)
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