Tuesday 17 October 2017

Serbia has nominated its first openly gay prime minister

The choice of Ana Brnabic has been criticised by conservative groups.

By Prudence Wade

Serbia is a highly conservative country, which is why it’s perhaps a bit surprising that it has nominated its first openly gay prime minister: Ana Brnabic.

Here’s everything you need to know.

Who nominated Brnabic?

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Aleksander Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, announced the nomination.

It was “a difficult decision reached in the interest of Serbia and its citizens”, said Vucic, a former extremist-turned-reformist who has promised to boost gay rights as part of efforts to move closer to European Union membership.

Who is she?

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41-year-old Brnabic is currently government minister of public administration and local government. The British-educated Brnabic, who is a marketing expert, had worked for US companies before she assumed her Serbian government job.

“If elected in parliament, I will run the government with dedication and responsibility and I will do my job honestly and with love,” Brnabic told state Tanjug news agency.

She is not a member of Vucic’s ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party but is considered loyal to him. Her appointment to the government last year — she was hand-picked by Vucic who was then prime minister — was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country whose gay community regularly faces discrimination, harassment and violence.

What does this mean for the country?

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Brnabic’s nomination is considered part of Vucic’s apparent turn toward the West despite strong pressure from Russia to maintain its influence in the region.

“I believe she has professional skills and personal qualities,” Vucic said. “I’m convinced she will work hard.”

What have opponents said?

Pro-Russian nationalists have blasted the choice. The conservative Dveri group, close to the Serbian Orthodox Church, said Brnabic was obviously appointed under Western pressure.

“Is it possible that the ruling majority has no other candidate for the prime minister-designate but the one imposed by the West which dictates all the moves by this government?” the party asked.

What happens next?

Brnabic’s government needs formal approval by Serbia’s parliament next week.

Vucic has moved into the largely ceremonial presidential position.

Press Association

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