Serbian parliament convenes after elections, amid protests

International

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s new parliament convened Monday amid protests by the some opposition parties and far-right groups claiming that the parliamentary election, overwhelmingly won by the ruling populists, was rigged.

Dozens of protesters booed and jeered at the lawmakers arriving to the inaugural parliament session in the domed downtown parliament building. Some of them threw eggs toward the building.

Police sealed off much of the area in front of the assembly to prevent the repeat of violent protests last month at the same location against the increasingly autocratic rule of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic.

Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party swept the June 21 parliamentary vote that was boycotted by several of the main opposition parties. The Progressives won 188 seats in the 250-member assembly. The rest of the seats went to Vucic’s allies or minority groups, meaning that the real opposition will not be represented.

The opposition boycott was carried out citing the lack of free and fair voting conditions and a danger to public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic. But a number of smaller parties decided to run, saying the boycott only sidelined an already marginalized opposition.

Sasa Radulovic, the leader of one of the parties that ran in the election, took part in Monday’s protest.

“The government has forged the elections by falsifying the final electoral reports at the polling stations,” he said, claiming he has proof of the wrongdoing.

Vucic has repeatedly denied interfering in the vote, saying his opponents are crying foul because they have little popular support.

Vucic, who was elected to a five-year term in April 2017 and was not running for office this time, still dominated the election campaign through the mainstream media which he controls, denouncing and ridiculing his critics. He rejected allegations that by taking a leading role in the campaign, he was abusing his largely ceremonial presidential powers.

Most of the opposition parties accused Vucic and his government of letting the coronavirus crisis spin out of control in order to hold the election that tightened the ruling party’s grip on power amid widespread feelings of chaos.

Lawmakers at the inaugural parliament session wore face masks, and kept social distancing rules.

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