World Serbia: why the virus triggers anger

13:15  11 july  2020
13:15  11 july  2020 Source:   lepoint.fr

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For many, it was the last straw: when the authorities wanted to reconfigure them, thousands of Serbs took to the streets to protest against a court ruling inconsistent pandemic.

What was the trigger for this anger in this Balkan country which officially lists 370 deaths from the Covid-19? Is it likely to shake the strong man since 2012, Aleksandar Vucic, whose opposition and NGOs denounce authoritarianism?

Why these events?

The Serbs complied with the strict confinement initially imposed on the advice of Chinese experts. But on Tuesday, an hour after Aleksandar Vucic announced that they would remain locked up from Friday to Monday, thousands of Belgradois took to the streets, exasperated by the inconsistency of the authorities.

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The two months of confinement was followed by a period of total liberation: football matches with thousands of spectators, exhibition tournament organized by Novak Djokovic , since positive ...

For many, Aleksandar Vucic downplayed the extent of the pandemic and claimed a "victory against the virus" in order to be able to hold the legislative elections of June 21, boycotted by the opposition, which turned into a plebiscite for his party.

During the campaign, the authorities announced one daily death, even zero. The day after the election, the numbers started to rise again. Several ministers, who had ostensibly celebrated the victory, then announced that they were positive ... "We have had enough of the manipulation of the Covid-19 figures," said a protester Danijela Ognjenovic, 52.

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The virus causes severe acute respiratory infection and symptoms usually start with a fever The government has admitted "shortcomings and deficiencies" in its response to the virus , which has Analysts say it is hard to recall an event in recent years that has triggered as much online grief, rage

Anger is particularly contagious on social media. Researchers at Beihang University in Beijing mapped four basic emotions in more than 70 million posts and found Anger gives us a burst of adrenaline and sparks a fight-or-flight response in our nervous system. That in turn can lead to a spike in cortisol, the

To make matters worse, Aleksandar Vucic made his citizens feel guilty: "We have relaxed too much, we have made many mistakes, and the individual responsibility of each of us is engaged."

Who is demonstrating? Who is causing the violence?

Crowds are very diverse in Belgrade but also in various provincial cities, without identified leadership. Parade of young people, families but also citizens brandishing crosses and icons, anti-vaccines, etc. From the left to the extreme right, passing by those disappointed with politics, the whole ideological spectrum is represented.

Violence broke out on Tuesday when a group of demonstrators broke into Parliament, then Wednesday and again Friday evening.

If he gave up the weekend curfew, Alexandar Vucic denounced the action of "hooligans".

Protesters accuse them of "provocateurs" infiltrated by the authorities of having degenerated the demonstrations to discredit them, and denounce police violence.

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Can Vucic's power be shaken?

Strong man of Serbia since 2012, this former minister of Slobodan Milosevic is an ex-ultranationalist who has reinvented himself as a center-right leader wishing to accede his country to the European Union.

He controls the institutions. The main media, including television, are acquired, with the exception of N1, his pet peeve. On the evening of the first event, the national channel RTS had chosen to broadcast a film of Jackie Chan .

For the NGO Freedom House, Serbia is no longer a democracy because of this control of power over the media space.

The opposition, laminated for years, is now absent in Parliament.

Consequently, "it is in the street that the political struggle is waged", says political commentator Boban Stojanovic.

But experience shows that "the government can tolerate months of peaceful protests (...) as long as it controls the media discourse", according to journalist Nemanja Rujevic.

The protests "devoid of clear ideological goals, tend to be intense but brief," says Bosko Tripkovic, professor at the University of Birmingham Law. The protesters have "neither leadership nor list of demands" in the absence of opposition parties overwhelmed by the movement.

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The vast majority of chains of angry behavior never proceed past the first link. For example, someone in the family will tease or insult another and then stop. Since no one reacts aggressively to the provocation, it lasts only a few seconds.

Fueling the anger on Thursday was the publication this week of a new paper about the coronavirus in The New England Journal of Medicine by a team of Chinese people online were incensed, asking why the government had waited until Jan. 20 to inform the public that the virus was capable of being

Can the situation alienate the support of Europe at Vucic?

If it regularly points out shortcomings in terms of the fight against corruption or the independence of the justice system, the EU is showing leniency for a man whom it considers as the guarantor of the stability of the country and the key to a resolution of the conflict with Kosovo , whose independence Belgrade does not recognize. He was received this week by French President Emmanuel Macron on this issue, one of the most sensitive conflicts in Europe.

Without explaining it, Aleksandar Vucic suggested that "foreign influence" could be behind the demonstrations. One of the tabloids which he acquired, Kurir, explicitly mentioned Russia. A way for the power to re-display its attachment to the EU which it had not spared at the start of the pandemic for the benefit of the "Chinese brothers".

07/11/2020 08:13:54 - Belgrade (AFP) - © 2020 AFP

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