Serbia’s President-Elect Resigns From His Party

Posted May 24th, 2012 at 5:35 pm (UTC-5)
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Serbia's President-elect Tomislav Nikolic has resigned from his Serb Progressive Party, saying he wants to be the leader of all Serbian citizens.

Mr. Nikolic submitted his resignation Thursday to the party's main board and named his deputy Aleksandar Vucic as interim leader until a party congress elects new leadership.

He urged Serbian politicians, including his own party members, to form a new ruling coalition as soon as possible.

The conservative politician defeated incumbent Boris Tadic in the May 20 election. He is seen as a pro-Russian leader, but he told an European Union delegation Thursday that his first priority is to lead his country toward integration with the bloc.

Visiting EU envoy Miroslav Lajcak says Mr. Nikolic told him he would visit Brussels as soon as he is sworn in, which is expected in early June and that it will be his first official foreign trip.

Meanwhile, Mr. Nikolic will travel to Russia this week for a meeting with President Vladimir Putin. He is scheduled to attend the ruling United Russia party on Saturday.

His office was quick to point out that the trip was scheduled before the election as his party has a cooperation agreement with United Russia.

Serbian official media Thursday reported that in the final count of ballots Mr. Nikolic won nearly 50 percent of the vote while Mr. Tadic won more than 47 percent. Fewer than 50 percent of the voters came out to the polls.

Mr. Nikolic was a longtime member of the far-right nationalist Serbian Radical Party, whose former head Vojislav Seselj is on trial in The Hague on charges of war crimes during the Bosnian conflicts of the 1990s. He has tried to shed his conservative image in recent years and present himself as a democratic leader.