(Reuters) - Serbian President Boris Tadic disbanded parliament on Thursday and called an early general election for May 11, widely seen as Serbia's most important vote since the fall of Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.
The government collapsed at the weekend, with nationalist Prime Minister Vojislav Kostunica blaming deep disunity in his coalition with pro-Western liberals over defending Kosovo versus pursuing a place in the European Union.
"The election is a democratic way for citizens to say how Serbia should develop in the years to come," Tadic, also the head of the pro-Western Democratic Party, said in a statement.
He appealed for "a fair campaign in a peaceful and democratic atmosphere in order to enable Serbia to get stable institutions that will work efficiently."
The election will be a close race between Tadic's Democrats and the nationalist Radicals, Serbia's strongest party.
Some liberal politicians have already billed the vote as a referendum on a fundamental question: should Serbs go on working to join the European Union even though the bloc has recognised the secession of Kosovo.