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Thousands rally in Belgrade in fourth weekend of anti-govt protests

Author Radomir Ralev
Thousands rally in Belgrade in fourth weekend of anti-govt protests Belgrade protest on December 29; Source: Alliance for Serbia

BELGRADE (Serbia), December 31 (SeeNews) - Thousands of people rallied in Belgrade on Saturday for the fourth weekend in a row to protest against the government led by the populist conservative party SNS and against president Aleksandar Vucic, leader of the SNS. 

More than 35,000 citizens protested against what they see as an increasingly autocratic rule by Vucic, and called for the resignation of interior minister Nebojsa Stefanovic and for media freedom, the organiser of the rally, opposition Alliance for Serbia led by former Belgrade mayor Dragan Djilas, said in a statement on Saturday.

A series of protests have been held in Belgrade since December 7, following the assault on Borko Stefanovic, leader of the Serbian Left party. This weekend the rally was organised under the "One of five million" slogan, referring to a statement by Vucic that he would not fulfill any of the protesters' demands, even if they are five million. 

"The protests are political, but people have the right to protest. As long as they are peaceful, there will be no police at the protests. I am ready to see what these people are dissatisfied with," Vucic said in an interview with TV broadcaster Studio B late on Saturday.

The Alliance for Serbia accuses SNS and Vucic of provoking the attack against Stefanovic, who was assaulted by a group of men on November 23 in Krusevac, in southern Serbia, and suffered injuries from being beaten with an iron rod.

"People are in the streets because they are sick of the injustice, corruption, violence and extortion. Today in Serbia we cannot fight this through institutions as they are, in fact, suspended,"  Vuk Jeremic, former foreign minister and leader of the People's Party, a member of Alliance for Serbia, said in a video file posted on the website of Bulgarian private TV broadcaster bTV on Sunday.

The Alliance for Serbia was established before the local elections in Belgrade earlier this year. It was later joined by the leading opposition parties in Serbia, namely the Democratic Party, Serbian movement Dveri and the People's Party. The Serbian Left party is a member of the alliance.

Djilas, a former chairman of the Democratic Party, was a mayor of Belgrade between August 2008 and November 2013, when he lost a motion of no confidence.