As we entered July, the prime vacation month of the summer, youth everywhere is enjoying hot weather, beaches, nightclubs and traveling.
Unfortunately, that is not the case in Serbia where youth-led protests against the current Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic have been going on for 100 days. It has been three months since the presidential election, and the protests started a day after Mr. Vucic was officially elected as the president of Serbia.
Though there are a couple of groups that are involved in the protests, the loudest one is a student group called “Protiv diktature” (Against dictatorship). They are by far the most heard group, as they are using all forms of social media and networking to recruit more people, and deliver their message in cities around Serbia. So far thousands have joined the protests, and there seems to be more supporters every day.
“Protiv diktature” has 11,133 likes on Facebook, on Instagram, and on twitter. Now, you are probably wondering why are so many people protesting against a president that they elected? According to many people and media across Serbia, and one of the reasons for the protests is people’s beliefs that the elections were rigged.
As Mr. Vucic used to be the Prime Minister of Serbia before becoming the president, people believe that he blackmailed and paid people for votes, and how the final win was declared before the final counting of the votes. To this day it is unknown how many people came out to vote, or how many votes Mr. Vucic received, as they were not reported to the public.
Serbian people have been losing faith in the government for years now, as it is a nation-wide belief that the government is corrupt. People of Serbia know the influence of high government officials, and how media, TV, and newspapers are easily controlled by money and power. “Protiv diktature” believes that no other candidate had a chance, as Mr. Vucic was everywhere in the media, doing whatever he needed to win the elections. His win was declared as an “absolute win” on April 2, 2017, and the next day, youth and students all around the country started the protests. This is the first protest of the kind in the last 17 years.
Ten thousands of students started protesting on the streets on every big city in Serbia, with signs that were stating “Against dictatorship” and “Not my president.” It is needless to say that Serbian youth and Serbian people are unhappy.
Serbia’s economy has been worse and worse every year, and in 2016 Bloomberg rated Serbia’s economy as number seven on the list of the worst economies in the world. Another big issue for Serbian people is unemployment. Rate of Serbian youth unemployment is 18.5 percent bigger than the rate of European youth unemployment. About 16.5 percent of Serbian youth is neither working or finishing school.
Less than one third of youth is employed and whoever gets an opportunity leaves Serbia in search of better opportunities abroad. Many people blame the current government for such high unemployment rates and high poverty levels.
As Mr. Vucic was the prime minister of Serbia, he was well introduced with the problems the youth and people of Serbia are having. People are angry to say the least, as they believe President Vucic made many promises to get himself elected for Prime Minister, and then for President, and has not kept any.
Youth believes the president is following his own best agenda, and not what is the best for the country and the people of Serbia. The president did not earn the trust of the people, and the concern is, if we as the people cannot trust you, we do not want you leading us.
President Vucic has always talked about different development projects that will bring money to Serbia, but the people did not see it that way. The people’s beliefs are that the countries money is being wasted on projects, buildings, fountains, while none of it is being given to hospitals, education, or people.
The most effective and maybe the only way of a low income sick person getting treatment in Serbia is through text messages, where they ask people for money and if you send a text to a certain number you can donate money. People, and especially youth, want to fight to bring changes to the system, where money would be distributed to people and the needs of people and not where the government finds in convenient.
Poverty, poor economy, unemployment, rigged elections, lies and false advertisement are all leading to a nation of heavily frustrated people that feel like they have no voice or control in what happens with their country or their lives. People of Serbia are demanding a change, and youth is not afraid to speak their mind.
Students do not want a government that is forced on them, they do not want a president they do not believe in, and they will do whatever is in their power to be heard. Though the protests did not get viral, yet, they are still in full effect, and are giving people hope that they will get the change they seek. “I go out there for my family, my country and freedom. We deserve a President that we elected and that we want. No more lies and corruption. Serbia deserves better,” a Serbian student N.M. said.
Though it has been three months, the protests do not seem like they will end soon, and the people, especially youth, are continuing their fight for a better future.
Cover cartoon credit: Sergio Algeri/GYV