Serbian border police on high alert amid ethnic clashes inside Kosovo
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic stepped down from the helm of his populist party on Saturday amid plans to form a wider political movement and as he faces a wave of anti-government protests.
At his own proposal, Vucic was replaced as the leader of right-wing Serbian Progressive Party by Milos Vucevic, who is currently the defense minister.
“Thank you for these 11 years,” Vucic told a party gathering in the central Serbian town of Kragujevac. “I am proud to have led the best party in Serbia for all these years.”
Vucic first announced the change at a rally Friday in Belgrade in front of tens of thousands of his supporters. He has often faced criticism for remaining party leader while also holding the presidency of the country.
Vucic said he will remain a SNS party member “as long as I live,” and “won’t go anywhere from you.”
Thousands of people are expected at an opposition-led march later on Saturday demanding resignations of top officials and the revoking of licenses for pro-government media that air violent content and host crime figures and war criminals.
The protests in Belgrade and other Serbian cities are the biggest in years against Vucic and his government. They were organized in response to a pair of mass shootings earlier this month that left 18 people dead and 20 wounded, many of them children from an elementary school.
Critics accuse Vucic and his party of having fueled divisions in society and curbed democratic freedoms during his 11 years in power. He has denied this.
During the rally on Friday, Vucic accused the opposition of abusing the mass shootings for political ends. But he still offered dialogue as he seeks ways to ease mounting public pressure.
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