Serbian President Sets Election Date as Boycott Threat Fades

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(Bloomberg) -- Serbia’s president set elections for next month, ignoring the fading threat of a boycott by opposition groups that complain he’s stifling free speech.

The vote will be held on April 26, Aleksandar Vucic announced Wednesday following months of squabbling with his critics and after the European Union encouraged his opponents to participate.

“There’ll be more than 50 days for campaigning -- enough time for everyone to present their programs,” Vucic said, urging “peaceful and democratic elections.”

The proposed boycott has been something of an embarrassment for Vucic as he seeks to steer the biggest former Yugoslav republic toward membership of the EU. But despite the threats from the umbrella opposition group Alliance for Serbia delaying elections, the initiative has begun to unravel of late.

One reason for that is a lower barrier to enter parliament: the threshold was recently cut to 3% from 5%, encouraging smaller parties to join the election. Vucic’s ruling Serbian Progressive Party, which has dominated politics since 2012, is nevertheless set to win, with a recent poll giving it more than 53% support.

The new government is likely to implement a spending spree in excess of $15 billion through 2025 to speed up economic expansion. Vucis is also facing international pressure to mend ties with Kosovo as a condition to join the EU.

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