Serbia's pro-Western President Boris Tadic has resigned, paving the way for early presidential elections May 6.
Tadic made clear he wants to be re-elected the same day that his allies hope to win parliamentary and local elections and lead the Balkan nation towards European Union membership. Tadic is facing a strong challenge from a nationalist candidate who has the support of Russia.
Tadic said he waited to make the announcement because of concerns over security challenges in neighboring Kosovo, which Serbia has refused to recognize as an independent state.
He referred to an incident Wednesday, when two cars carrying members of a Serbian delegation were allegedly attacked with stones in Kosovo's capital Pristina, near the EU mission.
Tadic says the attack underscored the reason why he waited with his announcement. He said he did not want any instability - calling the Kosovo attack another warning to Serbia's institutions, government and parliament that it is important to maintain an existing level of security.
Tadic's presidential term was to end early next year. But analysts said he decided for an early vote - apparently to boost the chances of his Democratic Party, which has been slipping in recent pre-election polls against candidate Tomislav Nikolic of the populist Serbian Progressive Party.
Nikolic, who has the support of Russia, was deputy prime minister in a coalition government with late President Slobodan Milosevic in the 1990s and backed the wars in the Balkans. Critics are concerned that a Nikolic victory in the presidential election could plunge Serbia back into a confrontation with the West.
Tadic has made clear he has worked hard to bring Serbia out of isolation and closer to the European Union, but that it is up to voters to decide which direction Serbia should go.
Until the election, parliamentary speaker Slavica Djukic Dejanovic will fill in as president.