Tuesday 19 September 2017

Serbia's first openly gay prime minister prepares to take office

Ana Brnabic attends a parliament session in Belgrade, Serbia (AP)
Ana Brnabic attends a parliament session in Belgrade, Serbia (AP)

Serbia's president has formally nominated the highly conservative country's first openly gay prime minister.

Ana Brnabic has been nominated as the prime minister-designate. Her government needs formal approval by Serbia's parliament next week.

President Aleksandar Vucic called it "a difficult decision reached in the interest of Serbia and its citizens".

Ms Brnabic - who gained a master's degree in marketing from the University of Hull - is currently the minister for public administration and local government.

Her appointment to the government last year was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country, whose gay community often faces discrimination, harassment and violence.

Mr Vucic, a former extremist-turned-reformist, has promised to boost gay rights as part of efforts to move Serbia closer to European Union membership.

Ms Brnabic is not a member of Mr Vucic's ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party but is considered loyal to him.

Pro-Russian nationalists blasted the choice on Thursday.

The conservative opposition Dveri group, close to the Serbian Orthodox Church, said Ms 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.

Mr Vucic's coalition partners were also infuriated.

"Ana Brnabic is not my prime minister," nationalist official Dragan Markovic-Palma told the private Beta news agency.

Earlier he said he would not approve anyone for the post who does not have at least two children.

Mr Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, was expected to appoint a loyalist to maintain control of the government as he moved into the largely ceremonial presidential position.

AP

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