BELGRADE, March 13 (Reuters) - Serbian President Boris Tadic
disbanded parliament on Thursday and called an early general
election for May 11, widely seen as Serbia's most important vote
since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
The 10-month old government collapsed at the weekend, with
nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica blaming deep
disunity in his coalition with pro-Western liberals over
defending Kosovo versus pursuing a place in the European Union.
"The election is a democratic way for citizens to say how
Serbia should develop in the years to come," Tadic, also the
head of the pro-Western Democratic Party, said in a statement.
He appealed for "a fair campaign in a peaceful and
democratic atmosphere in order to enable Serbia to get stable
institutions that will work efficiently."
The election will be a close race between Tadic's Democrats
and the nationalist Radicals, Serbia's strongest party, who are
seen to have gained further on Serb bitterness over Western
backing for Kosovo's secession last month.
Analysts predict lengthy coalition talks that would delay
reforms and erode investor confidence, already shaken by
Belgrade's recall of ambassadors from states that recognised
Serbia's former province as independent, and by violent protests
against embassies and foreign firms.
Standard & Poor's also revised its outlook on the country to
negative earlier this week, noting the impact that an anti-EU
government would have on macroeconomic policy and reforms.
Serbia's liberal politicians have billed the vote as a
referendum on a key question: should Serbs go on working to join
the European Union even though the bloc backed the secession of
its cherished province.
"May 11 will be when we determine the path that Serbia
takes," deputy PM Bozidar Djelic of the Democrats said on
Wednesday. "We need new enthusiasm and a clearly determined path
towards the European Union".
The Radicals are expected to focus their campaign on Kosovo,
the benefits of close ties to non-Western powers, such as
Russia, and the failure of eight years-worth of pro-Western
governments to deliver on their promises of a better life.
The party's general secretary Aleksandar Vucic said that
while Europe was important, it was a mostly hyped-up issue which
was clouding more major things, such as "how to solve people's
"We want Serbia in the EU with Kosovo as its part," Vucic
told independent broadcaster B92, "but we also want people to
live better and have someone responsible dealing with their daily