Vucic to Present Serb President With Plan for Next Cabinet

  • Vucic expects mandate from Nikolic to form new cabinet
  • Diminished majority may convince Vucic to seek coalition rule

Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic presented President Tomislav Nikolic with his plans for a new government Thursday as he seeks to overhaul the economy and bring the country closer to the European Union.

Nikolic, the founder and the first president of Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party, is expected to give the premier a mandate to form a ruling coalition after he won April 24 early elections. The decision will be announced after Nikolic meets with other party chiefs in line with the constitution, his press office said.

“I informed the President that I think that we have a majority in parliament,” Vucic told reporters after meeting Nikolic. The focus of the new government will be on improving the economy, living standards and political stability and the fight against corruption and crime, Vucic said. “We want to do the most difficult things during summer.”

Vucic will choose a coalition partner by early June, he said, without specifying. He said before the ballot only that he’d reject any party that opposes his plan to ready Serbia for EU entry by 2020. The 46-year-old former ally of war-time leader Slobodan Milosevic forced the vote two years early to secure a new mandate to push through public-sector job cuts, close or sell unprofitable state companies that drain a billion euros ($1.1 billion) a year from state coffers, and pursue other austerity measures agreed with the International Monetary Fund.

Diminished Majority

The yield on Serbian dollar bonds maturing in 2021 rose 10 basis points to 4.31 percent by 3:21 p.m. in Belgrade, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The dinar firmed almost 0.1 percent to 122.70 against the euro.

While Vucic emerged from the ballot with a diminished majority, his Progressive party and a dozen smaller allies in its electoral coalition took 131 of parliament’s 250 seats. The government will be formed after a June 4 deadline for the new assembly to convene. Vucic will then have 90 days to form a new cabinet.

His party’s support in the country of 7.1 million people will be “less comfortable because they depend not only on coalition partners within the Progressives but also on other coalitions if they want to broaden support in parliament,” Slobodan Antonic, a political analyst at the Faculty of Philosophy in Belgrade, said by phone.

Vucic is facing growing opposition criticism over a lack of media freedom and one of his major proposed projects, the Belgrade Waterfront. Thousands of Serbs demonstrated this month after election night, when unidentified masked men demolished buildings on the Sava river in Belgrade where authorities want to build a 3 billion euro development with U.A.E. investors. Tension over the project may force Vucic to rejoin forces with Socialist leader Ivica Dacic, who could torpedo the deal if he’s left out of the government.

Almost two decades after the bloody wars that tore apart former Yugoslavia, Serbia is one of Europe’s last ex-communist nations to embark on a wide-scale overhaul of its economy. With unemployment that exceeds 18 percent and an average take-home wage of $407 a month, Serbia’s living standards lag those of richer EU states, including former Yugoslav partners Slovenia and Croatia, which joined the bloc in 2004 and 2013.

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