Serbia president: Prime minister to remain in office

BELGRADE – Serbia’s president on Monday proposed that current Prime Minister Ana Brnabic stay in office, paving the way for the formation of a new government more than three months after a parliamentary election.

Autocratic leader Aleksandar Vucic announced his choice at a news conference that followed a meeting of his populist Serbian Progressive Party, which won an overwhelming majority in the June 21 vote.

“I hold Ana Brnabic in very high regard,” he said.

The June balloting in Serbia was the first held in Europe after the coronavirus outbreak. Serbia's authorities have faced criticism for abolishing most anti-virus measures before the vote, which led to a surge in new infections.

Many Serbian opposition groups boycotted the June vote, saying that it wasn't free and fair because of the ruling party's tight grip on mainstream media and pressure on dissent.

Two decades ago, Serbia ousted in a popular uprising then-autocratic leader Slobodan Milosevic after years of wars and international sanctions. Critics of Vucic, a former Milosevic-era government minister, accuse him of clamping down on hard-won democratic freedoms. He has denied this.

Brnabic became Serbia's first female and openly gay prime minister in 2017, after Vucic resigned the post in order to take part in a presidential election. Brnabic's government formally seeks European Union membership while also maintaining close ties with Russia and China.

It wasn't immediately clear when Serbia's lawmakers will vote to confirm Brnabic and her government. She has yet to reveal the composition of the future Cabinet.