Serbia to hold snap polls in March

AFP , Sunday 26 Jan 2014

Serbia- EU
Serbia's Prime Minister Ivica Dacic (L) is welcomed by European Commission (EC) President Jose Manuel Barroso ahead of a meeting at the EC headquarters in Brussels January 21, 2014 (Photo: Reuters)

Serbia will hold early elections in mid-March, the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) said Sunday, days after the Balkans country started talks on joining the European Union.

Deputy Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, the powerful head of the SNS, said party leadership "unanimously" backed his proposal to call the polls, the Tanjug news agency reported.

"My proposal is to check the will of the people," Vucic told a party meeting on Saturday, calling for the snap vote to be held on March 16.

"The time has come to give account of what we have done," Vucic said.

President Tomislav Nikolic is expected to dissolve parliament and call the polls by Wednesday, once he receives a formal government proposal, his office said.

Analysts say the SNS wants the early vote to capitalise on strong public support after the start of accession talks with the EU and the arrests of several former ministers and tycoons as part of the fight against corruption and organised crime.

A December survey showed the SNS enjoys the support of about 43 percent of voters, the Blic daily reported Sunday.

Support for the country's second-largest party, the opposition Democratic Party (DS), stands at around 13 percent, showed the survey.

Trailing is Prime Minister Ivica Dacic's Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), a junior partner in the ruling coalition, with 11-percent support.

The SNS and SPS joined forces after May 2012 legislative elections, ousting the DS after its leader, Boris Tadic, lost a presidential vote to Nikolic.

Since taking power, the government has significantly improved relations with longtime foe Kosovo, signing an agreement last April on better ties with the breakaway province that paved the way for Serbia to start the negotiating process on EU membership earlier this week.

Serbia hopes to join the 28-member EU by 2020.

Vucic and Nikolic formed the pro-European SNS in 2008 after abandoning the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party of Vojislav Seselj.

Seselj is on trial before the United Nations war crimes court for the former Yugoslavia in The Hague for his role in the Balkans wars in the 1990s.

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