Serbia pres. calls right-wing group ‘fascists’ after clash

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president is denouncing a “fascist rampage” after a right-wing opposition group clashed with ruling party lawmakers outside the parliament building.

The leader of the Dveri group, Bosko Obradovic, and his supporters on Friday blocked the entrance into the parliament, shouting and blowing whistles, as ruling party lawmakers struggled through the crowd amid chaos.

One of the lawmakers later displayed a torn suit coat.

The incident illustrates mounting political tensions in Serbia ahead of next month’s parliamentary elections. Police said 15 people have been detained.

Opposition parties have accused the government of populist President Aleksandar Vucic of using a state of emergency against the new coronavirus to tighten his grip on power. Vucic has denied this.

He accused the opposition of violence in a video message released after Friday’s incident.

“I demand that all the citizens of Serbia condemn the fascist ordeal of these people in the strongest way and show that Serbia is a democratic country,” Vucic said. “Serbia will not allow the victory of fascism.”

The pro-Russian Dveri group is part of an opposition alliance that has announced plans to boycott the June vote citing alleged lack of conditions for a free and fair election.

Thousands have taken part in noisy protests against Vucic in the past two weeks by blowing whistles and banging pots during a curfew that was in place until a few days ago as part of a strict lockdown against the coronavirus outbreak.

Obradovic and his followers on Thursday evening also brought down metal fences outside the presidency building during a protest attended by hundreds of citizens.

Obradovic said after Friday’s incident that “it is time for a rebellion.” The ruling party has “demolished state institutions, manipulated, humiliated and insulted this nation and its state.”

A former extreme nationalist who now portrays himself as a pro-European politician, Vucic has been accused of imposing an autocracy through total control of mainstream media and silencing of critical voices.

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