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