VRNJACKA BANJA, Serbia – Serbia's Prime Minister-designate Ana Brnabic said Friday it would be an honor to serve the country, even as some furious early reaction suggested that it could become an ordeal for the first female and openly gay person to head the conservative nation's government.
President Aleksandar Vucic choice of Brnabic, currently minister of public administration and local government, as the next prime minister has infuriated nationalists.
Opposition official Bosko Obradovic said the U.S.- and British-educated Brnabic is "a foreign agent" who was nominated to the position by the West.
"Ana Brnabic has worked all of her life for foreign companies and NGOs," Obradovic said. "She has nothing to do with our country, our system and identity."
The conservative opposition Democratic Party of Serbia said Vucic's nomination of Brnabic was "a slap in the face of a majority in Serbia which supports traditional (family) values."
Brnabic, 41, needs formal approval by Serbia's parliament next week for her to become the first female — and gay — head of government in Serbia where the LGBT population has often faced discrimination, harassment and violence.
Vucic's populist party has a big majority in the assembly, and it is expected that her government will be approved. The question is for how long her government could last under the pressure from the nationalists and the influential Serbian Orthodox Church.
Brnabic's nomination was considered part of Vucic's tactics to please the West amid strong pressure from Moscow to maintain influence in the Balkan region and keep Serbia, a traditional Slavic ally, away from NATO and the European Union.
"I'm proud and still too emotional from all of this," Brnabic said during her visit to southern Serbia on Friday. "It's a great honor to serve this country. I wish to thank, once again, the president for the given trust."
Vucic, who was prime minister before his election as president in April, was always expected to appoint a loyalist to maintain full control of the government as he moved into the formally ceremonial presidential position.
Brainy and a fluent English-speaker, Brnabic is an outsider in the murky realm of Balkan politics.
Her tenure could be brief. Vucic has already been mulling early parliamentary elections to cement his populist party's power before his huge popularity in Serbia wanes.
Associated Press writer Dusan Stojanovic contributed from Belgrade, Serbia.