Serbia’s Boris Tadic has resigned nine months before the end of his presidential term, paving the way for an early election. The pro-Western Tadic is expected to face strong competition from nationalist Tomislav Nikolic.
Tadic is set to leave the office April 6, after that Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, the speaker of parliament, will become the acting president until a new head of state is elected.
Serbia's parliamentary speaker is expected to call a vote for May 6, the same day that general elections are already scheduled. According to the Law on the Election of the President, the vote must be called at least 30 days before the election takes place, which means by April 7 if the vote is to go ahead on May 6, reports Balkan Insight.
Tadic's presidential term would have expired at the end of this year. He decided to opt for an early vote to boost the chances of his Democratic Party, which has been slipping in recent pre-election polls against Nikolic's populist Serbian Progressive Party.
Dragan Bujosevic, editor of the Serbian daily Politika, told Balkan Insight that later on Tadic
"would risk losing, as he would go into the second round [of the presidential polls] with [opposition leader Tomislav] Nikolic."
Tadic, whose main goal was to bring Serbia closer to the European Union, said the challenge will be tough, and called on voters to choose which way they want the country to go.
“I'm offering a road of European integration,” Tadic said. “I will run in that election with optimism because of the positive trends in our country.”
Apart form advocating the integration of Serbia into the European Union, Tadic is known for his firm stance on the troubled Kosovo region. He believes Serbia should only join the EU with his country's sovereignty over Kosovo.
However, it is Kosovo’s proclaimed independence that was one of the reasons behind the constant faltering of the talks on Serbia’s EU membership, even after the European Commission recommended making the country an official candidate on 12 October 2011.
Another condition for full EU accession put to Belgrade was cooperation with the War Crimes Tribunal in The Hague – and under Tadic it did.
It resulted in Serbia handing over former Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, arrested in Belgrade in July 2008. In October 2009, The Hague put Karadzic on trial, accusing him of several war crimes, including ordering the 1995 Srebrenica Massacre.
Court proceedings over another suspect, Bosnian Serb ex-General Ratko Mladic, will start in May. The most wanted war crimes suspect in the Bosnian conflict, Mladic had been on the run for 16 years before his arrest in January 2011.
In July, Serbia extradited its last war-crimes suspect, Goran Hadzic. He will now be tried in The Hague by the tribunal for the former Yugoslavia over crimes he allegedly committed in the early 1990s.
Tadic was elected president in 2004. The presidential term in Serbia lasts five years and one person can only be elected twice. Tadic, however, can run for a third consecutive term, as Serbia's new constitution was adopted in 2006 and his first term does not count.