Skip to content

Serbian Police Detain 38 People Protesting Over ‘unfair’ Election

Serbian police have detained at least 38 people who took part in a protest over an election earlier this month that international monitors said was unfair.

Opposition group Serbia Against Violence has been staging protests since the 17 December elections, saying there was election fraud, particularly in the capital, Belgrade. The governing populists were declared winners of the parliamentary and local councils’ elections.

Some opposition politicians responded by going on hunger strike.

On Sunday evening, protesters tried to enter Belgrade city hall, breaking windows, before riot police pushed them back using teargas, pepper spray and batons.

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 recognise 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”.

The US ambassador, Christopher Hill, who has been criticised 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 behaviour. He added that eight officers were injured, including some seriously.

The opposition said police used excessive force and beat up some of its supporters.

Also on Monday, several hundred university students and other citizens blocked traffic at a key Belgrade street that hosts government headquarters, braving a police warning against blockades in the capital. No incidents were reported as some students played volleyball and soccer on a sunny day.

Police “are ready and capable of countering any acts of violence with determination”, Ivkovic said.

The Serbian Progressive party, which won the election, has denied rigging the vote and insisted the ballots were fair despite criticism from international monitors and local election observers.

The Serbian president, Aleksandar Vučić, described Sunday’s protests as an attempt to overthrow the government with help from abroad, without specifying what he meant. Serbia’s prime minister, Ana Brnabić, thanked Russia late on Sunday for tipping off Serbia in advance of violent protests against the results.

Vučić has “irrefutable evidence” that the west is encouraging the opposition protests, the Russian ambassador, Aleksandr Botsan-Kharchenko, told Russian media after meeting with Vučić on Monday.

Representatives of several international rights watchdogs observing the elections reported multiple irregularities during the vote, including cases of bought votes and ballot-box stuffing. They also noted unjust conditions for opposition candidates because of media bias, abuse of public resources by the ruling party, and Vučić dominating the ruling party’s campaign and media time allocated for candidates despite not taking part in the elections himself.

Featured News