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© Reuters/Ivan Milutinovic
Supporters of Serbia's opposition Progressive Party attend an opposition rally in Belgrade February 5, 2011.
Tens of thousands of disenchanted Serbs protested in central Belgrade on Saturday in the biggest anti-government rally in years aimed at showing opposition strength ahead of scheduled 2012 elections.

A pro-European Union coalition has governed Serbia since 2008, but persistent economic hardship and frustration with slow EU integration has left many disgruntled with the government.

"This government was promising us milk and honey in 2008 and what do we have now? More hardship, and a dishonest and arrogant government which does not care about its own people," said Zdravka Stanojlovic, 44, a Belgrade waitress.

The rally was organised by Tomislav Nikolic, head of the Serbian Progressive Party, the most influential opposition party shown in polls as offering a strong challenge to the current ruling Serbian Democratic Party.

"Elsewhere in the world people are telling governments they should listen to the people," Nikolic said in reference to Egypt and other recent anti-government protests.

"I know you are disenchanted and bitter over this dishonest government which is tormenting you. Let us torment government instead."

Police estimated that 70,000 attended the rally, an event one security official described as peaceful, although a few people were detained for drunken disorderliness.

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