BELGRADE, Serbia, April 16 (UPI) -- Thousands rallied in Belgrade Saturday to demand early elections, and Serbia's opposition leader declared a hunger strike.
The BBC reported Tomislav Nikolic, leader of the Progressive Party, told the crowd: "This is my personal act. I am no longer taking any food or water. Serbia deserves sacrifice."
Demonstrators carried banners reading "Down with thieves" and "People want justice, work and progress."
President Boris Tadic, who met with Nikolic Thursday, said the election date, now set for next year, cannot be changed until Serbia becomes a candidate for EU membership.
"Elections should be part of our European agenda ... not an obstacle," his office said. "Rather than instability and constant veiled threats of violence, Serbia needs exactly the opposite."
Parliament Speaker Slavica Dukic-Dejanovic said elections are close, and the exact date is immaterial.
"Those who offer to hold the elections two months before the legal deadline show lack of political ideas," she told the Vecernje Novosti newspaper, B92 reported. "It is important that the election date, whenever it is, does not interfere with our European path."
She said Parliament would pass all laws needed to join the EU by mid-June.