Thursday, 19 April, 2018

Djukanovic claims to have won presidential election in Montenegro

Montenegro elections likely to mark closer relations with both Russia and the West Montenegro's Djukanovic Defies Balkan Political Instability With Ability To Change
Melinda Barton | 16 April, 2018, 06:17

The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the ruling party of Montenegro, declared victory of their leader Milo Djukanovic in the presidential elections on Sunday, who promised to continue to pursue country's future membership in the European Union (EU).

In March he announced his bid to return to frontline politics and the 56-year-old economist wants to take the predominantly Orthodox country - which has pro-Russia sympathies - into the European Union following its admission to North Atlantic Treaty Organisation in 2017.

Current incumbent Filip Vujanovic is a close associate of Milo Djukanovic, a member of his Socialist Democrats Party (DPS).

Montenegro's presidency is a ceremonial post, but is expected to become the real seat of power in the country if 56-year-old Djukanovic is confirmed as the victor.

Opinion polls predict a first-round victory but if the veteran politician is forced into a run-off he will have to face voters again on 29 April.

His main opponent is Mladen Bojanić, a businessman supported by several parties, including pro-Russian contingents.

As for the only openly pro-Russian candidate, Marko Milacic, a 32-year-old journalist, he would only win about 3% of the vote.

The issue of organised crime cast a shadow on the campaign, with some 20 people killed by assassination or auto bombs over the last two years.

Mr Djukanovic has been accused by the opposition of being linked to the mafia, which he denies. "But the problem is that I do not know which side he is on", he added.

"The opposition proposes to be a Russian province" and defends "a retrograde policy on the multi-ethnic lifestyle in Montenegro", however accused Milo Djukanovic, who can count on the massive support of Croatian, Albanian and Bosnian minorities who weigh for 15% of the electorate.

With Montenegro's average salary at around 500 euros ($615) and unemployment at over 20 percent, the debate over the West versus Russian Federation is not the main concern of many Montenegrins.

The six-time former prime minister said he was running for the presidency in order to stabilize Montenegro's pro-Western path amid regional and global instability and "defend" it from Moscow's influence. The first results of the vote, attended by almost 2,000 global and local observers, are expected Sunday evening. Local newspapers have already raised this week cases of presence on the electoral rolls of deceased persons.

Biljana Popovic from the Centre for Democratic Transition, one of the NGOs monitoring the vote, said there were "a few irregularities that so far are not likely to affect the election".