The nomination of a woman to head Serbia's government was a first that surprised many. That Ana Brnabic is also openly gay makes the move all the more astonishing.
After vacating the post to become president, Aleksandar Vucic tapped the 41-year-old Brnabic to replace him as prime minister. If approved, she would become the first female to ever hold the office in Serbia. It would also put the independent politician in rare company worldwide, making her just the fifth openly gay head of government.
But the prospect of this happening in a country that has a far-from-stellar reputation when it comes to gay rights and homophobia is what has really grabbed the headlines.
At first glance, the choice of Brnabic by Vucic -- a former ultranationalist and member of former strongman Slobodan Milosevic's cabinet -- appears to come out of the blue.
But Vucic has risen to prominence since reinventing himself as a reformer who is committed to Serbia's drive toward European Union membership.
The choice of an openly gay female -- echoing Vucic's move as prime minister to appoint Brnabic to a cabinet position, also a first in Serbia -- is seen by some as a move to appease fears of growing inequality in Serbian society and a possible move away from the West and toward traditional ally Russia.
"The appointment of Brnabic is a continuation of Serbian President Aleksandar Vucic's politics of tactical Europeanization," says Koen Slootmaeckers, an analyst at the Queen Mary University of London.
"Under this approach, LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender) issues are used to speak to the EU's self-proclaimed LGBT-friendly identity without engaging with LGBT issues domestically."
Western-educated and decidedly pro-European, Brnabic has kept a low profile since joining the government in 2016 as minister for public administration and local self-government.
Her appointment to the government -- she was handpicked by Vucic-- was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country, whose gay community regularly faces discrimination, harassment, and violence.
But Brnabic herself has downplayed the historic significance of her rise in public life.
"I don't want to be branded as a 'gay minister,' just as my colleagues don't want to be branded as 'straight ministers'," she said in a recent interview.
Nonetheless, her nomination comes in a country and a region where homosexuality is openly frowned upon.
According to the Commissioner for the Protection of Equality, a 2012 research paper showed that 48 percent of Serbs believe that homosexuality is an illness.
In May 2014, Amnesty International identified Serbia as one of a number of countries with a marked lack of will to tackle homophobia and transphobia.
At a gay-pride parade in the capital, Belgrade, in 2010, 150 people were injured as nationalists attacked marchers and clashed with police, leading officials to ban the event for the following three years until it was reinstated with an extensive security presence.
Serbia has a population of about 7 million people, the vast majority of which are Orthodox Christians with staunchly conservative views.
But the government has been eager to show increased tolerance for minorities, including the LGBT community, since it began talks to join the European Union by 2020.
Still, the right-wing opposition group Dveri, which has close ties to the Serbian Orthodox Church, complained that Brnabic's appointment came under pressure from the West.
"Is it possible that the ruling majority has no other candidate for the prime minister-designate but the one imposed by the West, which dictates all the moves by this government?" the party said on its website.
More importantly, Vucic's coalition partners were also infuriated, raising the slim prospect that the nomination process may be derailed.
Vucic's Progressive Party has 102 seats in the 250-seat legislature, and while the ruling coalition has a majority, some lawmakers are openly revolting against the choice, despite the president's claim that "everything will fine."
"I have only one sentence: Ana Brnabic is not my prime minister," United Serbia party head Dragan Markovic-Palma told the private Beta news agency, noting he would not approve anyone for the post who does not have at least two children.
Parliament had been expected to approve Brnabic's nomination on June 22, a day before Vucic's formal inauguration at the legislature. However, no official date for the vote has been set and some expect it will be delayed until next week as Vucic solidifies broader support for the candidate.
If Vucic puts the issue to a vote in parliament, failure to approve Brnabic, who is not a member of the Progressive Party but is considered loyal to the president, would likely trigger Serbia's third early election in the past five years.
Critics of her nomination also say that while she is competent and has shown a quiet efficiency while in government, Brnabic's political inexperience and lack of a power base may give her limited room for maneuver.
"A nonpartisan figure for Vucic is a good choice because in this way he can fully maintain his dominant political position," says Boban Stojanovic, a political analyst and professor at the University of Belgrade.
Stojanovic says that no matter what happens, Brnabic is probably little more than a short-term solution for Vucic because she won't interfere with relations between members of the coalition government.
At the same time, she will head up a government that can implement unpopular reforms needed for Serbia to progress further down the path toward EU membership without Vucic's party facing any risk of backlash.
"Vucic can replace Ana Brnabic without any problems. The resignation of any other prime minister could cause political problems and problems within parties and coalitions," Stojanovic says.
"That is one reason why I think Brnabic is a short-term solution, because Vucic did not want to sacrifice a political person from his party, as we have frequent hints about connecting upcoming local elections in Belgrade and another early parliamentary election."