Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic has called an early parliamentary election for April 24, and dissolved the parliament.
Nicolic was expected to call the election after prime minister Aleksandar Vucic announced on March 3 he had submitted a formal request to the president. Although Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has a substantial majority in parliament, he is understood to be seeking to increase his majority and secure another four years in office. Belgrade is aiming for EU accession by 2020, which will require potentially unpopular economic reforms that will result in thousands job losses.
The early parliamentary elections will coincide with regular local and regional elections in the autonomous province of Vojvodina, and will take place just two years after the previous early parliamentary elections.
Speaking on March 4, Nikolic urged politicians, citizens and the media to ensure a fair and democratic race, voicing confidence that Serbia would stay the reform course.
“It is time to test the support because reforms are serious and hard and so is needed citizens to declare themselves-do they support reforms or there is some better idea or maybe there is someone else who deserves the trust of citizens,” Nikolic told journalists on March 4.
Nikolic is a former president of the SNS but resigned after being appointed president in May 2012, when he was succeeded by Vucic.
“The government has done a lot in the previous period and has started a whole system of reforms for which it has to obtain new mandate in order to be sure that what it does is in accordance with citizens want,” Nikolic said.
He added that Serbia always resolves its problems through elections and that citizens always make right choice.
Nicolic’s announcement ends months of speculation about the date of the election. Vucic and other SNS officials first indicated they were considering a snap election in autumn 2015.
Vucic said on February 17 that the country will hold early parliamentary elections because it needs to resolve social conflicts which are blocking reforms.
“The government needs a full mandate to complete the reforms that have to be steered by 2020, which will take Serbia on a good and safe path,” Vucic said.
The Serbian president, whose mandate expires in spring 2017, said that all state institutions will continue to function through the election period.
Serbia previously held early elections in March 2014, less than two years after regular elections were held in spring 2012.