Protesters in Serbia carried pictures of their Prime Minister and president elect Aleksandar Vucic and Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan wearing similar plaid jackets to highlight parallels between the two leaders, both of whom have been accused of pushing their countries towards authoritarian rule.
Protests against Vucic began on April 3, the day after he won the presidential elections in the first round. They have continued daily in Belgrade and other cities, though numbers are relatively small.
Students, supported by other citizens, turned out in larger towns throughout Serbia on April 18. A spike in numbers was expected after smaller crowds gathered over Easter weekend, but only a few hundred people turned out in Belgrade, and even smaller numbers in Novi Sad and Nis, the second and third largest towns in the country.
The low turnout was partly attributed to the “eternal derby” football match between Red Star and Partisan, an event which always brings a high risk of violence on the streets.
The focus of the protests is Vucic’s increasing dominance over Serbian politics, though participants have used them to raise a diverse range of grievances against the prime minister.
The organisers of the protests are still unknown and students still claim they manage to organise spontaneously via a Facebook page called Protiv diktature (against dictatorship).
At the latest protest, participants stressed Vucic’s similarity to Erdogan, who also switched from prime minister to president before holding a referendum to give himself sweeping new powers.
Protesters carried pictures of the two leaders casting their votes at polls wearing very similar plaid jacket. Some wore face masks representing Vucic and his close associate Minister of Interior Affairs Nebojsa Stefanovic, and imitated a scene in which Vucic hugged Stefanovic, while others recreated a similar tableau with Erdogan hugging his close associates.
The largest banner at the April 18 protests was still “This is the country for us”, a line from the song ‘Zemlja’ by prominent rock band Ekatarina Velika-EKV (Catherine the Great) which says: “This is the country for us, this is the country for all our kids… Look at me, look at me with the eyes of a child….”
New protests have been announced for April 19.
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