Serbia’s President Picks Ally Brnabic to Stay on as Premier

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(Bloomberg) —

Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic appointed Prime Minister Ana Brnabic to lead the next cabinet in a sign of continuity after their party won a significant majority earlier this year.

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The appointment will put Brnabic in charge for a third term, one where she’ll face a host of challenges, including an energy crunch and mending ties with Kosovo. She will also have to navigate pressure over Serbia’s balancing act between the European Union and Russia.

“I have great confidence in Ana. She is enormously loyal to her country,” Vucic said in Belgrade on Saturday. His Serbian Progressive party won by a landslide in the April ballot, when he also secured a second term as president. Still, Brnabic may be replaced in a 2024 government reshuffle by the ruling Progressive Party, Vucic said, without elaborating. 

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UK-educated Brnabic, 46, first joined the government in 2016 as a non-partisan minister. She advanced to the premiership in 2017, taking over from Vucic when he became the head of state.

Vucic picked Brnabic for the job in a bold move to have an openly gay women — a first in the Balkans and much of Europe — lead the government in a largely conservative nation of 7 million. She was appointed for another term in 2020, following elections boycotted by most opposition groups.

With the backing of the president and his dominant party, which Brnabic joined in 2019, her private life has largely become a non-issue, though some LGBTQ activists complain she doesn’t show sufficient solidarity to promote rights for their community.

Brnabic has aligned her priorities with those of the president who sets and often executes policies, even when such authority rests with the government. She oversaw asset sales, the digital transformation of the public administration and headed the nation’s crisis committee when the Covid pandemic struck. 

She has sought to refute allegations of being a figurehead premier overshadowed by the country’s top politician. In January, she blocked Rio Tinto’s $2.4 billion lithium project in Serbia after street protests, a move that Vucic later described as a “mistake.” 

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