Serbian Prime Minister Vucic Agrees To Party's Nomination As Presidential Candidate

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has formally agreed to be the presidential candidate of his center-right Serbian Progressive Party (SNS).

Vucic told a crowd of supporters in Belgrade after a meeting of the SNS main board on February 17 that he had decided to accept the party's candidacy for president "because this country needs work, stability, investment, and a future."

The SNS board decided on February 14 to nominate Vucic instead of incumbent President Tomislav Nikolic, a former party leader who wants closer ties with Russia.

The departure of Nikolic could mean quicker moves towards EU accession and improved ties between Serbia and NATO, despite Belgrade's military neutrality.

On February 15 and 16, Serbian newspapers reported that Nikolic could run for another term against Vucic.

But both have declined so far to confirm or deny the reports.

Vucic will face rivals from a fractious opposition in the elections.

The date for the vote has not yet been formally announced, but observers say a date in April is likely.

Serbia's presidency is a largely ceremonial post.

But if Vucic controls both the presidency and the comfortable majority the SNS now holds in the 250-seat parliament, he could wield formidable political power.

Based on reporting by Reuters and TASS