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Western-leaning Djukanovic Wins Montenegro’s Presidential Elections

The former president and six-time prime minister hailed result as "another important victory for Montenegro's European future." 16 April 2018

Milo Djukanovic, who has dominated politics in Montenegro since the early 1990s, won yesterday’s presidential elections. He claimed his victory as a “confirmation of Montenegro's strong determination to continue on the European road,” as cited by RFE/RL.

 

Djukanovic, leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), won nearly 54 percent of the vote, Euronews reports, citing the Center for Monitoring and Research CeMI. Turnout stood at 61.6 percent just before the closing of polling stations last night.

 

The main challenger, businessman Mladen Bojanic, won around 33 percent. He was backed by several opposition parties, including groups who favor better relations with Russia. Bojanic said he would “continue the struggle to liberate Montenegro from Djukanovic’s dictatorship,” as cited by Reuters.

 

 

Djukanovic has ruled Montenegro, as prime minister or as president, almost continuously since 1991.

 

The opposition accuses Djukanovic of nepotism, corruption, cronyism, and ties to organized crime, all denied by the president-elect, Euronews writes.

 

No significant election irregularities were reported, according to Reuters, but RFE/RL writes that non-governmental election monitors cited a number of violations of voting procedures.

 

The post of president is largely ceremonial. However, Djukanovic is likely to have considerable influence on Montenegrin politics, due to his leading role in the ruling DPS party, writes The Guardian.

 

Djukanovic’s victory is a bellwether of Montenegro’s future relations with the EU and Russia, as the politician has long been an advocate for Montenegro’s further European integration, Emerging Europe says.

 

This presidential election was the first in Montenegro since it joined NATO, much to the chagrin of Russia, in 2017.

 

Nevertheless, Djukanovic told Reuters last week that he “would welcome an improvement of relations with the Kremlin,” perhaps a surprising remark given suspicions over Moscow’s involvement in an alleged planned attack on the politician.

 

In October 2016, Montenegrin opposition members and two Russian nationals were arrested on suspicion of plotting to kill Djukanovic and overthrowing the government. The two Russians, Eduard Shishmakov and Vladimir Popov, are being tried in absentia, as they are thought to be hiding in Russia. The Kremlin has refuted all accusations of its role in this supposed last-minute attempt to derail Montenegro’s entry into NATO.

 

 

  • When Yugoslavia disintegrated in 1991, Montenegro remained part of a smaller Federal Republic of Yugoslavia along with Serbia, distancing itself from the regime of then-President Slobodan Milosovic only in 1996. Independence came in 2006.

 

  • Djukanovic was indicted by Italian prosecutors in 2008 for alleged tobacco smuggling. However, the probe was later dropped because of Djukanovic’s diplomatic immunity, according to RFE/RL.

 

  • The EU published the latest version of its enlargement strategy for the Western Balkans in February. Of the six countries singled out in the strategy, only Montenegro and Serbia have already started formal accession talks with the EU. The countries were given the perspective – but not the promise – of joining the EU in 2025. Albania and Macedonia are expected to start accession talks soon.

Compiled by Wasse Jonkhans

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