Tens of thousands of anti-government protesters have gathered in Belgrade, Serbia, demanding early election, and expressing their unhappiness with low wages and official corruption..

Protesters carried banners which read: Down with thieves and People want justice, work and progress.

Members and supporters of the opposition Progressive Party staged a similar protest three months ago.

Opposition leader Tomislav Nikolic told the assembly he will go on a hunger strike until the government calls an election.

This is my personal act, I am no longer taking any food or water. Serbia deserves sacrifice, Nikolic told the crowd. Since this morning, I did not drink or eat. I ask you to accept this as the last resort to fight for a better Serbia. To [President] Boris Tadic I say: if something bad should happen to me, call the elections.”

A policeman watching the rally told Reuters: I fully sympathize with these people. They are poor and hungry and the government is to blame.”

However, Tadic dismissed the opposition’s demands and called agitation for an election dates as totally inappropriate.

Tadic has insisted that it will be impossible to call a new election until Serbia becomes a candidate for membership in the European Union.

Elections should be part of our European agenda... not an obstacle, said the president's office in a statement.

Rather than instability and constant veiled threats of violence, Serbia needs exactly the opposite.

The next election is not due until May 2012.

Tadic’s Democratic Party leads the existing governing coalition, although the Progressive Party is viewed as a strong challenger.

Tadic has blasted Nikolic’s hunger strike tactic.

Not even during the dictatorship of [former president] Slobodan Milosevic did the Democratic Party use this method [hunger strike], instead it honorably and courageously fought to win elections, the party said in a statement.

Nikolic’s party is connected to the ultra-nationalist Serbian Radical Party (SRS). Nikolic began his political career as an associate of Vojislav Seselj, who is now facing war crimes charges in The Hague.