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Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic sits during the plenary session "Reconciliation and a Shared Society" at the Clinton Global Initiative 2016 (CGI) in New York, U.S., September 20, 2016. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton


BELGRADE (Reuters) - Serbia's ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) has decided to nominate current Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic as a candidate in the presidential vote this spring, Interior Minister Nebojsa Stefanovic said on Tuesday.

The presidential election is tentatively expected in April and will pit the SNS's candidate against those from a fragmented and bickering opposition.

It will be a key test for the popularity of Vucic and his economic reforms, which have been backed by the International Monetary Fund, as well as his bid to bring the country of 7.3 million closer to the European Union.

"Unanimously. It is Vucic," Stefanovic, a key ally of the premier, told reporters after a meeting of the SNS's main board.

The party decided not to support the candidacy of incumbent President Tomislav Nikolic, a former ultranationalist who started his five-year mandate in 2012.

(Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Hugh Lawson)