BELGRADE Serbia's president nominated Ana Brnabic for the post of prime minister on Thursday, opening the way for her to become the country's first female and first openly gay head of government.
Brnabic, a manager not affiliated with any party, will succeed Aleksandar Vucic, who won the presidency in April. The 250-seat parliament will debate Brnabic's nomination next week. Vucic's allies hold an overwhelming majority, so the vote is largely a formality.
"I believe Ana Brnabic has all the personal qualities and expertise. I am confident she will work hard, that she will show respect to political parties and that she will work for the benefit of Serbia with other ministers," Vucic told reporters.
However, Brnabic's nomination drew criticism from conservatives, including some of Vucic's allies.
Dragan Markovic Palma - whose small Unified Serbia party is a part of the ruling coalition led by Vucic's Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) - said recently that the new prime minister "should be a family man who knows what children are."
During her ministerial stint, Brnabic sought to reform Serbia's bloated administration, a key condition for membership in the European Union and part of a 1.2 billion euros ($1.35 billion) loan-deal with the International Monetary Fund.
Vucic suggested Brnabic should focus more on economy and matters related with IMF and the World Bank, while Ivica Dacic, the Foreign Minister and leader of the co-ruling Socialists, would be responsible for "more political" issues.
Although his post is largely ceremonial, Vucic wields huge influence on the ruling coalition through the control of his SNS party. Analysts suggested the new prime minister will be little more than a figurehead.
Brnabic is also expected to improve Serbia's ties with Kosovo and to reform the judiciary, secure rights of minorities, including the LBGT population, all preconditions for the country to enter the EU.
She will also have to maintain Serbia's delicate balancing act between its old allies Russia and China and the West, including NATO and the EU, which is the main trade partner.
Serbia's economy is expected to grow around 3 percent in 2017. To comply with the terms of its deal with the IMF, which expires next year, Serbia must sell its remaining state companies, including loss-making copper producer RTB Bor and its petrochemical factories.
(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic and Ivana Sekularac; Editing by Andrew Heavens)