Street protests at the crossroads – What next?

At the last “Serbia against Violence” protest in Belgrade, there were visibly fewer people than at previous rallies. Nevertheless, the part of the opposition parties that stands behind them is still not giving up the fight for their demands to be met, although increasingly clear divisions are starting to show about how it should be done.

One group advocates for the status quo and that gatherings should continue as it has been the case so far, others claim that changes are needed in order not to exhaust the citizens’ energy, while others are convinced that a break of a few weeks, or until September 1, would be a good thing to do.

Radomir Lazović, from the Ne Davimo Beograd initiative, says that there is a possibility that the protest will be held this week too in front of the National Assembly in Belgrade as the parliamentary voting on the opposition’s demands takes place. Analysts, however, estimate that it is unrealistic to expect citizens to protest in large numbers during the summer.

Who can take responsibility?

The question of what direction are the protests taking and what will happen to them during the summer is evidently a double-edged sword for part of the opposition, which has been organizing civil protests for almost two months. On the one hand, since July and the peak of the holiday season are approaching, it is clear that the protests during the summer will not be as massive as in the first weeks, so there is a real danger that due to the decreasing number of people, they will cease or become meaningless.

On the other hand, if a part of the opposition were to declare a temporary suspension of protests until September or autumn, the question arises as to how the citizens would react to that decision and whether it would have a negative impact on the ratings of the opposition parties. Also, there is the question of whether there is anyone in the opposition who is ready to take responsibility for that decision and risk being called a traitor.

As Blic daily has learned, part of the opposition will hold a series of meetings this week to decide on the next steps, especially since last weekend, none of the organizers announced a protest the following week, for the first time since the beginning of civil protests.

An extraordinary protest is also in play now

Radomir Lazović admitted that the question of whether the protests will be successful or not worries all participants.

“It seems to me that this simply depends on the will of the people. They have demonstrated that they can gather in massive numbers and it is obvious that this is the biggest protest after October 5th one. Let’s stop counting people and let’s make the government comply with our demands,” said Lazović.

As he announced, the protest organizers will “launch certain actions” between the two protests, in order to try to exert more pressure on the government”.

“I think that the Serbian Parliament will vote for our proposals. I think this is an opportunity to put more pressure on them that they simply have to fulfill the demands of the protest and I wouldn’t shy away from calling the citizens when that happens. OK, maybe they won’t turn up in such numbers as before, but we have to show some kind of determination and desire for our demands to be met,” s “No influence on the opposition’s rating”

Predrag Lacmanović, executive director of the Faktor Plus Agency that conducts public surveys, points out that it was expected that with the arrival of summer and the holiday season, the number of protesters would decline.

“The opposition’s insistence that the protests be held during the summer is a strategic decision to keep the spark of the protests going. In this sense, the protests were extended to 10 cities across Serbia, but there were fewer people in those places,” Lacmanović states.

He goes on to say that we cannot know what effect a protest in front of the Assembly would have on the MPs voting on the opposition’s demands.

“I don’t think it will have an impact on the voting or the course of events in the Assembly,” Lacmanović assesses.

He believes that the opposition will continue to hold protests during the summer, even if the number of people at those gatherings is drastically reduced.

“Such a decision will not have much impact on the opposition’s popularity rating. Since the protests began, the rating of individual opposition parties has not increased drastically – maybe between 0.5% and 2%. So the opposition still hasn’t benefitted from the protests ratings-wise. There are quite a lot of protesters who, if elections were held now, would not vote for any of the opposition parties,” Lacmanović adds.

Lacmanović also believes that it would be better for the opposition parties to unite before the elections.

“The opposition needs to unite in a wider coalition and choose one man who will lead it,” says Lacmanović and adds that there is a possibility that there will be a short break in the protests.

(Blic, 27.06.2023)

This post is also available in: Italiano

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