Over 50,000 rally in Serbia for early elections
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Last Updated: Saturday, April 16, 2011, 22:41
  
Belgrade: Over 50,000 people took to the streets of Belgrade on Saturday for anti-government protests as the leader of an opposition nationalist party announced a hunger strike to force early elections.

"Since this morning, I did not drink or eat. I ask you to accept this as the last resort to fight for a better Serbia," Tomislav Nikolic told a stunned crowd of over 50,000 of his supporters gathered in front of the Serbian parliament for a protest labelled "a day of change".

"To (President) Boris Tadic I say: if something bad should happen to me, call the elections," he added as people in the crowd pleaded with him not to continue his fast.

According to his deputy Aleksandar Vucic, Nikolic will continue to refuse food and liquids until a date is set for early elections.

While the opposition is pushing for elections on December 18, the government insists that a vote should not be held until after a European Union decision on Serbia's membership application, expected by the end of the year.

They argue that an election campaign in autumn could hamper the accession process.

With elections officially not due until May 2012, Nikolic, whose Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) now holds only 21 of the 250 seats in parliament, is riding high on a wave of opinion polls which put the coalition around the SNS in the lead.

Delegations from all corners of Serbia carrying banners demanding early elections and change gathered for the peaceful protest.

"We have had enough of this privileged regime which has ravaged Serbia. They can no longer weaken the popular energy, and no one has ever defeated the people," said deputy SNS leader Aleksandar Vucic.

The crowd chanted "Thieves, Thieves!" and "Save Serbia, kill yourself Boris", referring to President Tadic.

The SNS is trying to cash in on growing public discontent as Serbia struggles with rising prices, inflation and high unemployment.

Bureau Report


First Published: Saturday, April 16, 2011, 22:41


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