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Serbia dissolves parliament, calls early elections

Serbia's president has said the time has come "to re-examine support for reforms" as Belgrade vies for EU accession. An early election will show whether Serbia wants to be a "modern" European nation, according to the PM.

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic on Friday signed a decree dissolving parliament and called for an early parliamentary election for April 24, two years before the Balkan nation's constitution mandates polls be held.

"The time has come to re-examine the support for reforms painful for many citizens," Nikolic said during the signing, broadcast live on state TV.

Earlier this week, Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic (pictured above) said in a televised interview that the government needed a strong mandate to go forward with necessary reforms to enter the European Union.

"This election will be a referendum on whether Serbia wants to be a modern, European country by 2020," the Serbian prime minister said in a televised interview earlier this week.

In December, the EU opened the first two chapters of negotiations for Serbia's accession to the 28-nation bloc, although Brussels has ruled out any enlargement prior to 2020.

Political reformer?

Nikolic's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) holds an absolute majority in parliament with 158 out of 250 seats. The SNS is expected to continue its lead over other parties in April's polls, according to opinion polls.

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Srdjan Bogosavljevic of Serbian market research company Ipsos told AFP news agency that having elections in April preempts pressure from EU accession pre-conditions, which may have harmed the SNS popularity.

Opinion polls "show that Vucic has not lost his popularity, on the contrary most think that Serbia has taken the right direction," Bogosavljevic said.

Formerly an ultranationalist information minister under strongman Slobodan Milosevic, Vucic now presents himself as a pro-European reformer, which has upset far-right parties opting for closer ties with Belgrade's traditional ally Russia.

ls/sms (AFP, Reuters, AP)

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