Serbia’s newly elected parliament was sworn in on August 3 in Belgrade amid a noisy protest in front of the parliament building and claims that the election that put them into power was rigged.
The swearing-in of the 250 members of parliament sets the clock ticking on a 90-day period in which they must form a new government. Lawmakers wore masks and maintained social-distancing guidelines designed to control the spread of the coronavirus as the swearing-in ceremony took place.
The populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) of President Aleksandar Vucic dominates the parliament with a majority of 188 seats. The Socialist Party (SPS), an SNS ally, forms the next largest bloc with 32 members.
The new Serbian Patriotic Alliance (SPAS) has 11 deputies and has expressed interest in joining a ruling majority. Another four minority parties are represented with a total of 19 seats.
Parliamentarians were greeted by a protest of several dozen people, who booed and chanted “thieves” and “betrayal" as lawmakers arrived. Some of them threw eggs and tomatoes toward the building.
Police sealed off much of the area in front of the assembly to prevent a repeat of violent protests that took place last month against Vucic, the outcome of the June 21 election, and the government’s response to a resurgence of the coronavirus in Serbia.
Critics and rights groups accuse the president of trampling over Serbia's democracy by exercising an outsized influence over state institutions and the media.
The opposition has also complained about the lack of free and fair voting conditions and a danger to public health amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
Serbia's main opposition parties boycotted the vote, decrying what they say is Vucic's increasingly autocratic rule over the country, which is seeking membership in the European Union.
Sasa Radulovic, the leader of the Enough Is Enough (DJB) party, which took part in the election but failed to win enough votes to be represented in the new parliament, participated in the protest and called for the annulment of the results and a new election. He accused the government of falsifying electoral reports at polling stations. Radulovic claimed to have proof of the wrongdoing.
The United Opposition of Serbia also raised “false election results” and said as of August 3 Serbia “officially has no parliament” because the 250 new parliamentarians were not elected legally.
Vucic has repeatedly denied interfering in the vote, saying his opponents are crying foul because they have little popular support.
Vucic was elected to a five-year term in April 2017 and did not run in the June 21 election. But he dominated the campaign through the mainstream media, which he controls.