Presidential election in Montenegro after months of deadlock

Montenegrin voters vote in a presidential election on Sunday that pits Miloš Jukanovic, a veteran of the political scene in the small Balkan country, against candidates expected to shift the lines.

The ballot is being played after months of interruption in the country bordering the Adriatic known for its breathtaking landscapes. The government was toppled by a vote of no confidence in August but is still in control.

Days before the presidential election, President Miloš Jokanović dissolved parliament and announced early parliamentary elections on 11 June after former President Miodrag Lečić failed to form a new government.

In this country of 620,000 inhabitants, the president has essentially a representative role and the prime minister is the main lever of power.

Milo Jokanovic, 61, nevertheless remains an important figure, having led Montenegro for three consecutive decades. A former close friend of Belgrade strongman Slobodan Milosevic, he defected to the Western camp and secured his country’s divorce from Serbia in 2006.

But his star faded during the 2020 legislative elections, which his formation, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), lost. Milo Jokanovic led the fight against the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church in the name of national sovereignty.

Since these elections, no camp has been able to win a stable majority and the country is moving from crisis to crisis.

Seven candidates are in the fray for the post of president. If no one manages to garner more than 50% of the vote, which according to analysts is the most likely scenario, a second round will take place on 2 April.

Andrija Mandic, 59, from the pro-Russian Democratic Front, Aleksa Besic, 35, from the center-right Democrats Party and Jakov Milatovic, 37, from Europe, a formation that seems to have wind in its sails, will be Jokanovic’s most formidable opponents.

The defeat of the outgoing head of state could mean a change of course for the country whose European prospects have been dogged by corruption allegations and a slow pace of reform.

Political scientist Daliborka Uljarevic told AFP: “These elections will decide whether Montenegro will stick to its current foreign policy goals or whether they will change under Russo-Serbian influence.”

Under Jokhanovic’s auspices, Montenegro joined NATO in 2017, has been negotiating EU membership since 2012 and has left the Russian sphere of influence.

But the rule of Milo Jokanovic and the DPS has been marred by allegations of widespread corruption and connections to organized crime.

Many residents are without illusions. “For the first time, I will not take part in the elections. I am disappointed with the power that promised reforms and a rapid entry into the European Union,” Anja, a 32-year-old lawyer who asked AFP, told AFP. , “Young people are leaving the country because they have no prospects here.”

Results are expected by evening.

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