Presidential Elections in Montenegro – in a ‘to be or not to be’ situation
Presidential elections are being held in Montenegro today. These are the first presidential elections in which the DPS is not in power. Milo Đukanović as the current president, enters the race weakened by the loss of state resources that helped him to achieve a good result in the past.
The last elections were held in a very different atmosphere in 2018, when the DPS held a firm grip on power and Đukanović won in the first round, leaving all candidates far behind. At that time, the opposition was in complete disarray after the attempted coup by the Russian-Serb services on the day of the 2016 elections.
After the Serbian Orthodox Church rebelled against the law on freedom of religion and brought its own people to power in Montenegro in 2020, Milo Đukanović found himself in a similar situation to that of Mikheil Saakashvili in 2013. That is why this election is a case of to be or not to be for Đukanović and his “sovereigntist” bloc.
Đukanović dissolved the Assembly on Thursday and called parliamentary elections for 11 June on Friday. The Abazović government and its partners in the Assembly have announced that they will request a decision from the Constitutional Court on this issue. Abazović is uncomfortable with the elections because his popularity is plummeting. That is why he is trying to postpone them by all means and that’s why he wasn’t a candidate in the presidential election.
It is most likely that Đukanović will get the most votes and it is only a question of who will come second in the first round, that is, who will win the second round with Đukanović.
Andrija Mandić, former member of the Montenegrin Parliament, one of the leaders of the Democratic Front bloc, President of the “Nova srpska demokratija” (New Serbian Democracy). Leader of the Montenegrin Serbs and long-time opponent of Milo Đukanović.
He took part in the 1999 war in Kosovo and was former Deputy Minister of Economy under Milošević. He is suspected of orchestrating pro-Serb and pro-Russian riots and the attempted coup on the day of the 2016 elections (he was even convicted, but the verdict was returned for a retrial).
Some media claim that he holds the title of Chetnik Duke which he has not denied.
Jakov Milatović, one of the two leaders of the Evropa Sad (Europe Now) movement, politician and economist.
Perhaps the most popular candidate after Đukanović. Milatović entered the presidential race literally at the last minute, replacing Milojko Spajić, the president of the Europe Now movement, who was found to be a Serbian citizen and resident in this country. Both Europe Now leaders were ministers in the government of Zdravko Krivokapić, which was negotiated in the Ostrog monastery and came to power in 2020, but lasted only a year and a half.
Spajić and Milatović launched a programme to raise wages and pensions by cutting health spending and other taxes. This has greatly increased their popularity among the people, while, according to their opponents, causing higher inflation and shortages of medicines.
Before his replacement, Spajić was mostly considered the main favorite of the current elections. Milatović was his sidekick, but now he’s at the forefront.
Aleksa Bečić, former President of the Parliament of Montenegro (2020-2022). Economist by education. Leader of the “Demokratska Crna Gora” (Democratic Montenegro) party, which was formed by the split of the Socialist People’s Party, the former Milosevic franchise in Montenegro. It is close to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
He became President of the Parliament after the successful 2020 elections, in which his coalition “Mir je naša nacija” (Peace is Our Nation) won 12.5% and ten seats in the Parliament. After the political crisis of 2022, he was dismissed from the post of President of the Parliament and together with Krivokapić’s government, went into opposition. He is now part of the ruling majority again and is supported by Dritan Abazović.
Relevant pre-election polls have shown that the most desirable rival to Đukanović in the second round is Andrija Mandić, whose conciliatory campaign is failing to deceive sovereigntist voters who will not vote for Đukanović. If he were to advance to the second round, then Đukanović’s victory would be quite certain.
On the other hand, Milatović is the most unfavourable candidate to face Đukanović in the second round, as his populist programme and promise of a pay rise have resonated and succeeded among traditionally sovereigntist voters, even though Milatović is close to the Serbian Orthodox Church.
The departure of Đukanović as President would mean greater control by Belgrade and Moscow over the processes in Montenegro and a consolidation of the power of pro-Serb forces in the country. Đukanović victory, on the other hand, could mean Montenegro’s return to the Euro-Atlantic path, but also a prolongation of the agony.
Writes for The Geopost: Ljubomir Filipović