President Aleksandar Vucic announced that Ana Brnabic, 41, was nominated as the prime minister-designate, which could also make her the first woman and first queer person ever to be head of state. Her cabinet needs formal approval by parliament next week.
It was "a difficult decision reached in the interest of Serbia and its citizens," said Vucic, a former extremist-turned-reformist who has promised to boost LGBTQ rights as part of efforts to move closer to European Union membership.
Brnabic's nomination is considered part of Vucic's apparent turn toward the West despite strong pressure from Russia to maintain its influence in the region. The British-educated Brnabic, a marketing expert, worked for U.S. companies before she assumed her Serbian government job.
"I believe she has professional skills and personal qualities," Vucic said. "I'm convinced she will work hard."
Brnabic is currently Serbia's minister of public administration and local government. She is not a member of Vucic's ruling populist Serbian Progressive Party but is considered loyal to him.
Her appointment to the government last year — she was hand-picked by Vucic who was then prime minister — was hailed by rights groups as historic for the Balkan country whose LGBTQ community regularly faces discrimination, harassment, and violence.
"Hopefully this will blow over in three or four days, and then I won't be known as the gay minister," she told The Associated Press at the time.
But Serbia is not the only country making strides to have more LGBTQ representation in government. This week Ireland formally elected Leo Varadkar, an openly gay man and son of an Indian immigrant, as its prime minister.
Varadkar defeated rival Simon Coveney earlier this month in a contest to replace Enda Kenny, who resigned in May. He was confirmed on Wednesday.
"If my election as leader of Fine Gael today has shown anything, it is that prejudice has no hold on this republic," Varadkar said after his victory was announced in Dublin on June 2.
At 38, Varadkar is Ireland's youngest prime minister, as well as the first from an ethnic-minority background and the first openly gay leader.
Varadkar was born in Dublin in 1979, the son of an Indian doctor and an Irish nurse. He came out publicly as gay in the run-up to a 2015 referendum that legalized same-sex marriage in Ireland.
He said he was "aware of the enormous challenges ahead. I'm ready for those challenges, as are we as a party."