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Serbian President Says Snap Election on Cards After Mass Shootings Spark Protests

Serbia's President Aleksandr Vučić during a cabinet meeting | Andrej Isakovic/AFP via Getty Images

Aleksandr Vučić has faced calls to resign as anger grows over the deaths of 17 people in two days earlier this month.

Voters in Serbia could be headed to the polls for the third time in just four years, as the country’s president, Aleksandr Vučić suggested a snap general election may be called in the wake of major public protests over two mass shootings.

Speaking at a press conference on Sunday, Vučić announced that he would soon stand down as the head of the governing Serbian Progressive Party and pledged he would explain the decision at a rally in Belgrade on May 26, which he said would be “the biggest ever,” according to local media reports.

New parliamentary elections, he said, could soon be scheduled and “the vote would be held no later than September.”

He insisted that despite a series of tense public demonstrations calling for him to leave office, “there will be no Maidan in Belgrade,” referring to the Ukrainian revolution that ousted the country’s unpopular pro-Russian regime in 2014.

Vučić has come under fire in recent weeks after two mass shootings in the capital left 17 dead and 21 wounded on two consecutive days earlier this month. Tens of thousands have since taken to the streets demanding the resignations of government ministers and a crackdown on violent content on television.

In Belgrade, a key bridge and a highway in the city were blocked by activists on Saturday, while large crowds rallied around the parliament building as part of a movement calling itself “Serbia Against Violence.” Vučić has claimed the protests amount to “harassment.”

A one-month amnesty has since been announced, with Serbians told to hand in illegally-obtained weapons or face prison sentences. Officials say only around 6 percent of the population hold licenses for firearms — excluding those used for hunting — but the country ranks third in the world for gun ownership and many automatic rifles are left over from the wars that followed the breakup of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Vučić appeared on Sunday alongside police chiefs near the town of Smederovo, where weapons collected as part of the amnesty were on display. According to him, half of those surrendered were illegal and even grenades and rocket launchers have been handed over.

Source: politico