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NATO member Montenegro votes in presidential election

Incumbent pro-Western president Milo Djukanovic is seeking another five-year term as Montenegrins head to the polls.

March 20, 2023
By Aleksandar Vasovic
20 March 2023

Montenegrins are voting in a presidential election that will influence the outcome of a parliamentary vote in June as well as the small Adriatic country’s stance toward the West and its ties with neighbouring Serbia.

Polling stations in Montenegro, which is a NATO member and a candidate to join the European Union, opened at 7am (0600 GMT) on Sunday and close at 8pm (1900 GMT). 

First unofficial results by pollsters, based on a sample of the electorate, are expected about two hours later.

Milo Djukanovic, the incumbent pro-Western president, has held top political posts in the country for 33 years and is seeking another five-year term.

His main opponents are Andrija Mandic, the head of the Democratic Front which favours closer ties with Serbia and Russia, and Jakov Milatovic, a pro-Western economist and the deputy head of the Europe Now movement.

If no candidate secures more than 50 per cent of the votes, a second round of voting between the top two is scheduled for April 2.

Opponents accuse Djukanovic and his left-centrist Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of corruption, links to organised crime, and of running the country of some 620,000 people as their personal fiefdom – charges Djukanovic and his party deny.

Sunday’s vote comes amid a year-long political crisis marked by no-confidence votes in two separate governments and a row between lawmakers and Djukanovic over the president’s refusal to name a new prime minister.

On Thursday, Djukanovic dissolved the parliament and scheduled snap elections for June 11. 

A victory in the presidential election would bolster the chances of the winner’s party in the parliamentary vote.

Over the years, Montenegro has been divided between those who identify as Montenegrins and those who see themselves as Serbs and opposed the country’s 2006 independence from a former union with neighbouring and much larger Serbia.

The country, which mainly relies on revenues from its Adriatic tourism, joined NATO in 2017, following a botched coup attempt a year earlier that the government blamed on Russian agents and Serbian nationalists. 

Moscow dismissed such claims as absurd.

Following the invasion of Ukraine last year, Montenegro joined EU sanctions against Russia. 

The Kremlin has placed Montenegro on its list of unfriendly states.

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