Protests in Serbia: Belgrade calling | The Economist
THE next general election in Serbia could be more than a year off, but the campaigning has already begun with a bang. On February 5th the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) held the biggest opposition rally in Belgrade since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000. Its leader, Tomislav Nikolic, demanded that an early election be called by April 5th and threatened more protests if his call was not heeded.
The government shrugged this off, but the public’s discontent is clear. Teachers and police have been on strike; health workers may soon join them. The economy is recovering but few people feel it. Unemployment stands at 19%. And the ruling coalition has been quarrelling. Tensions are evident within the biggest party, President Boris Tadic’s Democrats. The government has lost authority, says Mladjan Dinkic, deputy prime minister. Big changes are needed, he says, to avoid defeat.
The SNS may know what it is against, but it is less clear about what is for. It was formed in 2008 by unhappy members of the extreme nationalist Radical Party, the leader of which is on trial in The Hague for war crimes. It professes to be pro-European. Mr Nikolic has even said grudgingly that he would arrest the fugitive general, Ratko Mladic, who is wanted by the war-crimes tribunal. An official retorts tartly that saying one is pro-European costs nothing. When the SNS was asked to pay a political price, by voting in favour of a parliamentary resolution to condemn the 1995 Srebrenica massacre by soldiers commanded by Mr Mladic, it balked.