Election Protests Take a Turn

US ambassador denounces violence in Serbia as demonstrators oppose populist victory
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Dec 25, 2023 2:10 PM CST
Serbia Fights Election Protesters
Opposition supporters attempt to enter Belgrade's city council building in protest of what election observers said were widespread vote irregularities during a general election last weekend.   (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Serbian police said Monday they detained at least 38 people who took part in a protest against reported widespread irregularities during a recent general ballot that declared the governing populists as winners of parliamentary and local elections. Opposition group Serbia Against Violence has been staging protests since the Dec. 17 elections, saying there was election fraud, particularly in the capital, Belgrade. Some opposition politicians went on hunger strike, the AP reports. On Sunday evening, protesters tried to enter Belgrade city hall, breaking windows, before riot police pushed them back using tear gas, pepper spray, and batons. On Monday, several hundred students blocked traffic at a key Belgrade street that hosts government headquarters, despite a police warning.

More protests were held on Monday evening. Hundreds gathered outside the seat of the state election commission in central Belgrade before walking toward city police headquarters, where the detained opposition supporters are believed to be held. Representatives of Serbia Against Violence have said they will not recognize the election results, calling instead for the vote to be annulled and held again in a free and fair election. The alliance last week urged the EU to investigate the results after international observers said the vote was held in "unjust conditions."

US Ambassador Christopher Hill, who has been criticized by the opposition for his alleged pro-government statements, on Monday denounced "violence and vandalism" during Sunday's protest. On X, Hill added that "the legitimacy of democratic processes depends upon transparency and on the readiness of all parties, winning or losing, to respect the will of the people as expressed at the ballot box." Senior police official Ivica Ivkovic told reporters that those detained were facing charges of inciting violent change to the constitutional order—in reference to attempting to overthrow the government—and violent behavior. He added that eight officers were injured, some seriously. The opposition said that police used excessive force and beat up some of its supporters.

(More Serbia stories.)

Get the news faster.
Tap to install our app.
Install the Newser News app
in two easy steps:
1. Tap in your navigation bar.
2. Tap to Add to Home Screen.