A 39-year-old economist Monday became the youngest president in Yugoslavia's history, taking over as head of a collective presidency that faces unprecedented economic woes and ethnic tensions.

Janez Drnovsek, a virtually unknown lawmaker from northern Slovenia, won 56 percent of votes in his republic in a watershed ballot in April that gave Yugoslavia its first directly elected president.Previously, presidents were chosen by regional parliaments and just one candidate was put forth by Communist authorities.