Mon, 27 May 2019

Thousands of antigovernment protesters have gathered in the Serbian capital, Belgrade, a day after populist President Aleksandar Vucic held a mass rally in an apparent bid to counter months of demonstrations against him.

Protesters marched through downtown Belgrade on April 20, demanding more democracy and media freedom in the Balkan country. The rally ended in front of the Serbian state TV headquarters.

Critics say Vucic has overseen a dilution of democratic freedoms and imposed an autocracy on Serbia. Vucic denies the allegations.

Anti-Vucic rallies began in December 2018 after leftist opposition leader Borko Stefanovic was brutally beaten up by masked attackers.

Vucic later mocked the demonstrations, saying he wouldn't fulfill the demands 'even if 5 million of you come out.'

Since then, government opponents have rallied every Saturday under the slogan '1 Out Of 5 Million.'

Vucic told supporters at the April 19 rally that political disputes should be solved through elections.

He warned that 'no one must think' of coming to power through 'violence,' although the weekly opposition protests have been largely peaceful.

Long a nationalist, Vucic has attempted to remake himself as a pro-EU reformer while seeking to maintain good relations with traditional ally Russia.

With reporting by AP

Copyright (c) 2018. RFE/RL, Inc. Republished with the permission of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty, 1201 Connecticut Ave NW, Ste 400, Washington DC 20036

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