Serbian President Boris Tadic announced his resignation on Wednesday (April 4th), ten months before his five-year term was scheduled to end.
A pro-Western politician and a strong supporter of his country’s EU integration, Tadic said he would send an official letter to Parliament Speaker Slavica Djukic-Dejanovic on Thursday, after which she is expected to call early presidential elections on May 6th.
“In line with the constitution, I have decided to shorten my mandate … to allow the holding of elections on all levels on May 6th,” Reuters quoted Tadic, leader of the Democratic Party (DS), as saying. “I will run in these elections and I expect them to be tough.”
The vote will coincide with the parliamentary and local elections that are scheduled to be held the same day.
Tadic’s DS is the main party in Serbia’s ruling coalition, which led the country to recognition as an official EU candidate country on March 1st.
“I will run in the election with a lot of optimism, due to the positive trends in our country,” Belgrade-based B92 quoted Tadic as telling reporters on Wednesday. “I propose a path of European integration and preserving the country’s integrity.”
He admitted, however, that next month’s vote will not be an easy one for him. Although he is one of the most popular politicians in Serbia, recent polls have shown his DS as slipping to Tomislav Nikolic’s populist Serbian Progressive Party (SNP).
The two faced off during the presidential runoffs in both the 2004 and 2008 elections, both of which were won by Tadic. In 2008, the DS leader won re-election to a second five-year term with just over 50% of the vote.
The SNP leader is among several candidates expected to run for president in May.
Voicing confidence that he will defeat Tadic this time around, Nikolic was quoted as saying on Wednesday that he hoped “the election campaign will be fair.”
Kosovo is one of the thorniest issues in Serbian politics. Nationalists claim that Tadic is ready to sell off the former Serbian province in return for promises that his country will join the EU one day.
Kosovo declared independence on February 17th 2008, just two days after Tadic’s official presidential inauguration. The DS leader noted on Wednesday that his party is not planning to change its stance on the issue.
“We will not recognise Kosovo,” Tadic said. “I am still the president today and tomorrow.”
Belgrade has already announced that the May 6th election municipal and parliamentary elections will include parts of northern Kosovo, which identifies with Serbia and recently held a referendum to denounce Pristina institutions. Kosovo authorities have pledged to use force, if needed, to stop Serbia from conducting an election in its borders.
“It’s Serbia’s business,” Kosovo Interior Minister Bajram Rexhepi told SETimes. “All I am interested is not to have reflections (of it) in the security situation in Kosovo.”
Linda Karadaku in Pristina contributed to this report.