Thousands rally in Belgrade to protest against Serbian president

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Thousands of anti-government protesters gathered in Belgrade on Saturday to press demands for an end to the rule of President Aleksandar Vucic and his Progressive Party, greater media freedom and free and fair elections.

The peaceful demonstration was organized by the Alliance for Serbia (SZS), a broad grouping of 30 parties and organizations, which started weekly protests in December.

The Serbian Interior Ministry estimated the crowd’s size at up to 7,500 people. Organizers said numbers were far bigger.

The SZS has accused Vucic and his allies of corruption and of stifling media freedom. He denies this.

On Saturday, the SZS accused the authorities of shutting down bus lines to Belgrade and of pressuring companies not to rent busses to opposition backers.

Cedomir Cupic, a lecturer of at the Faculty of Political Sciences said Serbia must be liberated.

“With him (Vucic) Serbia has no future ... no country should depend from one man,” Cupic told the cheering crowd.

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“Over the last seven years (since Vucic came to power) we have devalued the country ... snubbed institutions, and we have one man deciding about everything,” Bogdan Tatic, one of the protesters, said.

Last month, protesters briefly occupied the state TV building and scuffled with police in Belgrade city center.

The ruling SNS-led coalition has a majority of 160 deputies in Serbia’s 250-seat parliament. Vucic has also staged a countrywide campaign and scheduled a major rally in Belgrade for April 19.

Last month, the SNS party leadership said it wanted a snap vote but no decision has been made so far.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Jane Merriman