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Unrest in Serbia after elections and attack on LGBTIQ+ centre

Photo: The Pride centre in Belgrade after an attack in May 2023 -. Wikimedia Commons


Things are unsettled in Belgrade, Serbia. Large-scale protests have been taking place weekly since the 17 December elections. Alleged fraud and other disturbances cast doubt on the results. In addition, the LGBTQ+ community continues to suffer exclusion and vandalism - on 7 January, a Pride info centre in the heart of Belgrade was destroyed. It is indicative of the unrest prevailing in Serbian society under the conservative, nationalist, authoritarian regime of President Vučić and the SNS party.

Pride centre

The Pride Info Centre in Belgrade advocates for recognition of the LGBTQ+ community and agendises its struggles and challenges. It functions as a meeting place and event venue and, through its central location, contributes to the visibility of the community. Above all, it acts as an information centre for anyone with questions regarding rights and welfare. On 7 January - Christmas Day in the Serbian Orthodox Church - an unknown perpetrator completely destroyed the façade of the centre. It was not the first time that this particular info centre had fallen victim to an act of hate - the counter now stands at nineteen attacks in just six years. None of the previous incidents have been properly investigated and no one has ever been prosecuted. The facade was repaired and it seems to be waiting for the next time things go wrong.

Vučić's diary

That the LGBTQ+ community is not welcome in Serbia becomes clear year after year during Pride. The 2022 Pride in Belgrade - marking the first EuroPride Week in south-eastern Europe - was banned by authorities under the guise of public safety. What should have been an event of acceptance and change - another step in the right direction - turned into a day of anti-Pride protests and groups clashed with the police. Anti-LHBTIQ+ sentiment permeates politics. Extreme right-wing parties like Dveri actively speak out against the Pride and organise counter-protests. The conservative-nationalist parties in parliament - which have the majority - have no motive to think otherwise. Nationalist-religious conservative groups stir up polarisation with their protests and are a more than welcome partner for Vučić to realise his nationalist-conservative agenda.


The attack on the Pride Centre in Belgrade comes amid a wider trend of democratic decline in Serbia. Since the parliamentary and local elections on 17 December, there have been thousands of people on the streets every week to protest against alleged electoral fraud. Led by the opposition coalition Serbia Against Violence demanded nullification of the election results. Opposition members are even in hunger strike gone. Across the country, tens of thousands of people have now mobilised for the sake of a transparent and democratic electoral process. Police violence is not unusual. It shows how those in power view anything that challenges their legitimacy.

Unequal playing field

International observer missions report on vote buying and other fraudulent practices that helped facilitate a victory for the SNS, in addition to concerns ahead of the election process. Starting with the uneven playing field, deliberately created by those in power, which meant that free choice could not be guaranteed. The line between the state and the SNS was distant during the campaign. It was dominated by Vučić's party through media and on the streets. There was also involvement of the president, despite the fact that there were no presidential elections and Vučić was therefore supposed to remain aloof.

"... marred by harsh rhetoric, media bias, pressure on public sector workers and misuse of public funds." - IEOM

Organised migration of voters

In particular, the elections in the capital Belgrade, which were narrowly won by SNS, raise major concerns. According to CRTA - an independent organisation working for democratisation in Serbia - the result in Belgrade was directly influenced by irregularities and does not reflect the will of the people. In local elections, votes were cast by non-voters. People with dual citizenship are allowed to vote in parliamentary elections but not in local elections because they are not residents of Serbia. On election day, there was talk of buses full of people from Bosnia & Herzegovina, for example, coming to cast unauthorised votes in Belgrade's local elections. In addition, there was talk of so-called 'organised migration of voters'. Voters hereby change their residential address to influence voting results - as there were not local elections everywhere. The opposition calls for re-election, particularly in the capital, which it claims it won provided there was no fraud.

"...characterised by numerous procedural shortcomings, ...violations of voting secrecy, and numerous examples of group voting." - IEOM

Given the number of observers - 5,587 - the Serbian government seems to want to give the appearance of a transparent democracy, but the conclusions of these observers speak volumes. There is plenty of evidence that the elections were not fair, but the opposition has nowhere to turn with this evidence. The authorities simply ignore the allegations. Voices that seek to protect democracy are ousted and arrested.

International reactions

With observer missions from the European Parliament and the OSCE, a reaction from Europe is bound to happen. Director of the PES (European Social Democrats) - Stefan Löfven - has therefore issued a letter written to Prime Minister Ana Brnabić of Serbia to express its concerns about the disturbances surrounding the elections and the rule of law in general. The PES also responded earlier with horror at the accusations from Serbian authorities towards MEP Andreas Schieder - part of the EP observer mission - who the authorities allegedly reported subjectively on disturbances. The concerns expressed and demand for independent investigations are a first step, but in order to maintain credibility as Western democracies, demanding re-elections is the only thing that will work. Only an independent investigation in a country that simply disregards conclusions of reports will do little to move things forward.


Given recent events, it can only be concluded that Serbia still has a very long way to go until EU accession. Systematic discrimination against the LGBTIQ+ community persists and politicians do not care. Substantial steps need to be taken to get in line with European values, starting with ensuring free and fair elections.


Want to know more? In the run-up to the elections, FMS organised a Political Café on 7 December that looked ahead to the elections and discussed the possible effects for both domestic and foreign parties. Watch our event this page back!