Serbia’s main opposition leaves meeting on election conditions, boycott looming

NEWS 17.09.2021 17:27
Source: Tanjug/Strahinja Aćimović

Serbia’s opposition organisations Freedom and Justice Party (SSP), Movement for Reversal, Free Citizens Movement and Democratic Party (DS) left the European Parliament (EP) facilitated inter-party dialogue with the regime on elections conditions on Friday, saying the ruling coalition rejected all suggestions, including those form the EP.

They fell short to say what their next moves would be but did not reject the boycott option.

Earlier on Friday, Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic told the MEPs facilitating the inter-party dialogue that all relevant state institutions were willing to hear constructive suggestions on improving election conditions.

The dialogue, second mediated by the MEPs after they failed to produce results in 2019, was supposed to last two days and would continue later on Friday with some opposition parties which opted to try to get something out of the talks.

Besides the MEPs failure to bring the two sides closer and avoid a possible boycott of April 2022 presidential, Belgrade, some locals and early parliamentary elections, the opposition leaders told reporters that a ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) negotiator Vladimir Orlic threw a salve of insults on the SSP leader Dragan Djilas.

Orlic denied and said there was nothing wrong with election conditions but that some were telling untruths.

The opposition leaders said MEPs did not interrupt Orlic, and one said they were probably shocked listening to his outbursts, the same as on other occasions.

He is among a few SNS MPs who rarely misses the opportunity to insult Djilas in the Parliament and public.

The nationalist movement Dveri decided to continue the talks but said there were two red lines they would not cross: media openness to the opposition and a mechanism for controlling the election process. If that is not achieved, Dveri will also boycott further negotiations.

The People’s Party said they did not hope for much, but would take part “as long as there is a bit of a chance some deal may be reached.”

Visibly irritated after leaving the talks, Djilas told reporters that six parties demanded the discussion about an agreement, “to stop losing time.”

Dragan Đilas
Tanjug / Jadranka Ilić

“This is all a big farce with SNS saying the election conditions are ideal, the opposition has access to the media as it should have and there is no pressure on people… SNS told us it disagrees with MEPs report, he said.

He added the opposition would send its suggestions to EP groups, „those who in March passed the resolution based on which those negotiations were launched.“

Janko Veselinovic, the head of the Movement for Reversal, agreed there was no ground for further talks, adding that “if there was 0.001 percent chance for an agreement, we would not have left the meeting.”

“Today’s talks were meaningless because SNS rejected all MEPs’ suggestions, even those it took place in drafting,” he said.
Veselinovic confirmed Orlic heavily insulted Djilas “in all of his three addresses,” adding he regretted the MEPs did not interrupt Orlic, but only told him during breaks not to use the time to insult others.

“We haven’t given up the European Union or the communication with the bloc, but decided that such a meeting could not produce free elections and free media,” Veselinovic added.

He said that the opposition leaders would meet soon to agree on further steps, including protests.

Pavle Grbovic, of the Free Citizens Movement, added that SNS explicitly and precisely rejected all suggestions, not those from the opposition, but from the EP as well.

A DS deputy Miodrag Gavrilovic, said his party left the talks because the regime refused the discussion on concrete suggestions and “because of Orlic’s vulgar insult on Djilas, but on DS too.”