AP NEWS

Serbia’s opposition-boycotted general election set for April

March 4, 2020 GMT
1 of 2
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Serbia's president on Wednesday set April 26 as the date of new parliamentary election which many of the opposition parties plan to boycott because of his firm control of media and the electoral process. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)
1 of 2
Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic speaks during a press conference in Belgrade, Serbia, Wednesday, March 4, 2020. Serbia's president on Wednesday set April 26 as the date of new parliamentary election which many of the opposition parties plan to boycott because of his firm control of media and the electoral process. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s president on Wednesday set April 26 as the date of a parliamentary election which many opposition parties plan to boycott because of his firm control of media and the electoral process.

Aleksandar Vucic’s right wing Serbian Progressive party is expected to emerge as an overwhelming winner of the vote and continue its eight years of dominance of the Serbian political scene.

Vucic, a former ultra-nationalist, on Wednesday wished success to all those taking part and said he hoped that the election for the 250-seat national parliament “passes in a democratic manner.”

European Union officials have failed to persuade most of the fractured opposition to take part in the vote despite promises from Vucic’s allies that the election will be free and fair.

Vucic has an almost total grip on Serbia’s mainstream media. Pro-government tabloids regularly blast his critics as foreign stooges or criminals without allowing them to respond.

Human rights watchdog Freedom House ranked Serbia in its latest report as among the countries with the largest 10-year declines in democratic freedoms.

The report said that in Serbia and neighboring Montenegro, “independent journalists, opposition figures, and other perceived foes of the government faced ongoing harassment, intimidation, and sometimes violence.”

“Public frustration with the entrenched ruling parties boiled over into large protests in both countries, but they failed to yield any meaningful change,” the report said.