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9 Mar, 2008 00:03

Serbia faces early poll as PM quits over Kosovo

The government in Serbia has collapsed following the resignation of Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica. President Boris Tadic says he will call for early elections to be held in May.

The question facing Serbia is whether it should go on working to join the European Union, even though most of the member countries have recognised Kosovo's unilateral declaration of independence.
For nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica, the answer to that question is a flat 'no'. He accuses ministers of favouring closer ties with the EU over his efforts for Kosovo to remain part of Serbia.

Pro-western President Boris Tadic sees it differently. He says Belgrade will only be able to defend its claim to Kosovo through EU membership.
The resignation of the PM illustrates the depth of the problem.
“The government of Serbia doesn't have a common opinion on a very important question and that is the question of the future of our country, the future of Kosovo in the boundaries of Serbia. A government without a common policy can't exist and function, so this is the end of the government,” Kostunica said.
It’s something Boris Tadic swiftly contradicted.
“I do not agree with the opinion that the government of the Republic of Serbia does not have a unified state policy towards the Kosovo issue. Kosovo is of course an integral part of our country and it is a constitutional obligation of the parliament, Serbian government and President of the Republic to defend the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Serbia. I am also positive that Kosovo will be best defended from secession by integration in the EU,” Tadic said.
Despite the statement, Tadic said he was ready to accept the resignation and call an early parliamentary election.
The cabinet, made up of Kostunica's conservatives and Tadic's pro-Western democrats, was formed last May, following months of strained negotiations in the wake of the parliamentary election in January 2007.
A snap election will probably be held on May 11, when the country is due to go to the polls in local elections. The outcome of the vote is difficult to predict.  And according to Aleksey Kuzmin, Chairman of the Advisory Board for the National Prospect Foundation, it's unclear whether a new poll will provide a government that can function properly in Serbia.