In Serbia, the Fight for ‘Green’ Votes Turns Ugly

However, the Uprising's main weakness comes from a struggle within over who gets to lead the emerging ecological front, but also which political faction would collect the 'green' votes.

The 'Defend the Rivers of Stara Planina' initiative, ORSP, and its de facto leader, Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta, played the pivotal role in galvanising support, coordinating different actors and articulating the 13 demands presented during the first protests in April.

Addressing protesters on September 11, Cuta said that those who have concerns with the 'Jadar' lithium mining project being developed by Anglo-Australian corporation Rio Tinto will intervene physically if the government ignores the will of the people and the warnings of environmental experts.

"If the machinery starts its way towards Loznica [western Serbia], we'll block the entire country. Rio Tinto, get out of Serbia," Cuta said.

A number of academics and experts argue that the undergound mining and exploitation of lithium discovered by the multinational mining giant will slowly render a large part of the of the Macva district in western Serbia uninhabitable.

But, the initial unity among eco-activists, locals and the political opposition has been shattered over the last several months.

Political infighting

Aleksandar Jovanovic Cuta, co-founder of Defend Stara Planina's Rivers, ORSP, April 10, 2021. Photo: Srdjan Ilic

In a September 10 Facebook post, activist Marija Alimpic predicted that the Uprising would turn out to "deceive the people". She accused Cuta of cooperating with Serbia's energy, development and environmental protection minister, Zorana Mihajlovic, and claimed that he was using the environmental movement as a launching pad for a presidential election...

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