Montenegro stages presidential run-off vote

Montenegro Stages Presidential Run-Off Vote
Milo Djukanovic, © Copyright 2023 The Associated Press. All rights reserved
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By Predrag Milic, Associated Press

Montenegrins are casting ballots in a run-off presidential election that is a battle between a long-serving pro-Western incumbent and a newcomer promising change in the small Nato member state in Europe that has been locked in political turmoil.

Observers say President Milo Djukanovic, who is credited with leading Montenegro to independence and into Nato, could be facing defeat from the economist Jakov Milatovic, the candidate backed by governing parties advocating closer ties with Serbia.


The run-off vote on Sunday is being held after none of the contenders won majority support in the first round of voting two weeks ago. Some 540,000 people are eligible to vote in Montenegro, a country of 620,000 located in the Balkan peninsula and by the Adriatic Sea.

Voters cast ballots
People wait in line at a polling station in Montenegro’s capital Podgorica (Risto Bozovic/AP)

The winner of Sunday’s vote could also reflect on the upcoming early parliamentary election on June 11. That vote was scheduled because of months-long government deadlock that stalled European Union integration and alarmed the West as war rages in Ukraine.


Mr Djukanovic, 61, first became prime minister at 29 and has stayed in power for the past 32 years – longer than his Democratic Party of Socialists, which was ousted in a 2020 parliamentary election.

He has been a key Western ally in countering Russian influence and keeping the Balkans stable. He has insisted that the struggle is not over despite Montenegro’s Nato membership because of Serbia’s alleged expansionist policies and Russia’s influence.

Jakov Milatovic poster
Jakov Milatovic is the challenger in the presidential run-off vote (Risto Bozovic/AP)


Mr Milatovic, who is 36 and was educated in Britain and the United States, has appealed to voters disillusioned with established politicians like Mr Djukanovic. He has insisted that he wants Montenegro to join the EU, although some of the parties that backed his candidacy are pro-Russian.

If Mr Milatovic wins, his Europe Now movement could find itself in a position to dominate the next government after the snap vote in June. Mr Djukanovic has hoped that his re-election for another five-year term would pave the way for his DPS to also return to power in June.

Mr Milatovic’s Europe Now emerged after the first government that resulted from the 2020 parliamentary elections collapsed. As the economy minister in that government, he gained popularity by increasing salaries but critics say this was done at the cost of the already depleted health system and not as an outcome of reform.

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