Serbia’s coalition government asked President Tomislav Nikolic on Tuesday to call an early election with the dominant center-right SNS party looking to accelerate reforms by cashing in on a surge in its popularity. Nikolic was expected on Wednesday to schedule the parliamentary election for March 16, just under two years since the people of the western Balkan state last voted. The SNS (Serbian Progressive Party), the strongest party in the ruling alliance, is well ahead in opinion polls, putting party leader Aleksandar Vucic in pole position to take over from Socialist Prime Minister Ivica Dacic. Once an ultranationalist disciple of the “Greater Serbia” ideology that fuelled the wars of federal Yugoslavia’s bloody disintegration in the 1990s, Vucic has since rebranded himself as a pro-European modernizer. As deputy prime minister, Vucic has advocated a painful overhaul of Serbia’s bloated public sector, the pension system and rigid labor market.
Asking Nikolic to dissolve parliament, the government said in a statement that voters should “have a say in the future direction of state policies”. It cited economic reforms, the fight against organized crime and talks that started on January 21 on Serbia joining the European Union.
Investors appear to believe a strong SNS-led government would be better placed to forge ahead with such measures, but doubts remain about the party’s capacity and commitment.
Economy Minister Sasa Radulovic, a non-party cabinet member picked for the post by the SNS, resigned on Saturday over stalled legislation to liberalize the labor market and cut loose dozens of loss-making state firms.