Serbian parliament convenes about 4 months after elections

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s new parliament convened for its first session on Monday, some four months after an election that reaffirmed the dominance of autocratic President Aleksandar Vucic and his right-wing populists.

Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party holds the majority in the 250-member assembly and is expected to lead the next Serbian government. Several opposition groups also entered parliament in the April 3 vote after boycotting a previous election.

Parliament took four months to convene due to repeated elections being held in some districts following complaints of irregularities.

Serbia’s beleaguered opposition parties have complained that Vucic’s tight grip on mainstream media and state institutions, along with a constant campaign against criticism in pro-government media, has rendered any election in the country far from being free and fair.

Vucic denied the allegations, saying the opposition was simply too weak to beat him.

A former anti-Western ultranationalist, Vucic has said he wants to bring Serbia into the European Union. But he refused to join Western sanctions against Russia and maintains friendly relations with Moscow despite the war in Ukraine.

Some analysts said Vucic wanted to delay forming a new government for as long as possible to avoid taking sides in the Russia-West dispute. Serbia has condemned the Russian invasion, but remains opposed to sanctions.

Vucic won another five-year term in the April vote, which was both a parliamentary and presidential election.

Now in parliament, the opposition has pledged to increase pressure on the authorities. Presiding over the inaugural session as the oldest legislator until a president is elected, political opponent Vladeta Jankovic harshly criticized the lack of democracy in Serbia.

“There can be no free and fair elections as long as…one man’s will is above the Constitution,” he said, referring to Vucic’s near absolute power in Serbia.

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