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Serbian President Vucic resigns as chairman of the ruling party | News

President Aleksandar Vucic said he would stay on as head of state as anti-government protests continue following two consecutive mass shootings.

Serbia’s President Aleksandar Vucic has resigned as leader of the ruling Progressive Serbia Party (SNS), following anti-government protests over two mass shootings that killed 18 people this month.

On Saturday, Vucic said at the SNS conference that he will continue to serve as head of state, but a new approach is needed to unite the country.

“A slightly different approach is needed to unite more people who want to fight for the victory of patriotic Serbia…a successful Serbia will focus on its citizens, for one that will not look for reasons to secession, but Seek a unified country and unity,” the 53-year-old said.

The previous day, tens of thousands of people from all over Serbia and neighboring Kosovo, Montenegro and Bosnia rallied in the center of the Serbian capital Belgrade to show their support for Vucic after large-scale anti-government protests in response to the shooting.

Another anti-government protest is scheduled for later on Saturday.

SNS leaders accepted Vucic’s resignation proposal at the party congress in Kragujevac, central Serbia, and appointed Defense Minister Milos Vucevic to replace him in accordance with Vucic’s proposal.

Opposition parties and rights watchdogs have long accused Vucic and SNS of authoritarianism, stifling of media freedom, violence against political opponents, corruption and links to organized crime.

Vucic and his allies deny the allegations.

Vucic said at the conference that he will continue to serve as head of state and will continue to serve as a party member. “I will never leave the party and I am proud to have led the best party over the years,” he told cheering delegates.

Following the appointment, Vucevic confirmed that SNS will join the umbrella political organization Vucic plans to create on June 28.

“If Vucic is the locomotive of that movement, then the first tram is SNS,” he told reporters.

Mass shooting shocks Serbia

Tens of thousands of Serbs rallied in Belgrade earlier this month after a string of deadly shootings sent the country and the surrounding Balkans into a state of shock.

A 13-year-old suspect carried out an attack that officials said he had been planning for months. A day later, a 21-year-old suspect opened fire on passersby in a town south of Belgrade from a moving car.

After the shooting, the Serbian education workers’ union announced a strike and called for an end to promoting violence in the country.

“We ask that the promotion and public appearances of all convicted criminals, as well as all reality TV shows with violent actors be banned,” they wrote in a statement.

In their protest march, Serbs demanded increased security, a ban on violent content on television and the resignation of key ministers.

Vucic became SNS chairman in 2012, replacing Tomislav Nikolic, who had held the post since 2008 when the party was an offshoot of the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party.

He served first as deputy prime minister and prime minister before being elected president in 2017 and 2022. His second and final term expires in 2027. Together with its allies, the SNS has a 164-seat majority in the 250-member parliament.

A nationalist firebrand during the wars of the 1990s, Vucic later embraced a pro-European policy, declaring Serbia’s EU membership a strategic goal. He also maintains close ties with Russia and China.

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