Rookie Milatovic wins elections in Montenegro, according to early predictions

Early projections of the election results in Montenegro’s presidential runoff have suggested that economics expert and political novice Jakov Milatovic won, defeating the pro-Western incumbent in the small NATO member nation on Europe’s Balkan Peninsula.

Milatovic won about 60%, while Milo Djukanovic won about 40%, according to predictions published by the generally reliable Center for Monitoring and Research, and based on a sample of biased votes. Official results are not expected before Monday.

Analysts said the results could change slightly as the vote count progresses, but that the gap between the two is too wide for major changes.

“This result is an indicator that the final result will not be substantially different,” said group analyst Ana Nenezic.

Milatovic’s victory is believed to reflect voter fatigue with Djukanovic and disillusionment with established politicians. Milatovic, 36, first entered politics in 2020 after gaining his education in Britain and the United States.

Montenegrin presidential election
Pro-Western incumbent Milo Djukanovic (Risto Bozovic/AP)

Djukanovic is credited with leading his country to independence from Serbia in 2006 and challenging Russia to bring Montenegro into NATO in 2017.

But critics say Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists have let crime and corruption engulf society.

The DPS was ousted from power in a 2020 parliamentary vote, but Djukanovic remained in office until his five-year term ended.

His defeat on Sunday means both he and his party will be in opposition for the first time since the late 1980s.

Sunday’s runoff was scheduled after neither contender won a majority in the first round of voting two weeks ago. Some 540,000 people had the right to vote.

Montenegro has a population of 620,000 and is bordered by Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, Kosovo, and the Adriatic Sea.

The result of Sunday’s election is likely to be reflected in an early parliamentary election scheduled for June 11. That vote was scheduled because of a months-long government deadlock that has stalled Montenegro’s pending membership of the European Union and alarmed the West as the war continues in Ukraine.

Although Milatovic’s Europe Now group is not formally part of the ruling coalition, his presidential bid won the backing of the shaky alliance that includes parties that advocate closer ties with neighboring Serbia and Russia.

Milatovic has said that Montenegro’s integration into the EU remains a priority for him and his party. He has denied Djukanovic’s accusations that the ruling coalition was pushing Montenegro back under Serbian influence.

With Milatovic’s victory, his Europe Now movement could also find itself in a position to dominate the next government after parliamentary elections in June.

Europe Now emerged after the collapse of the first government that resulted from the 2020 parliamentary elections.

As finance minister in that government, Milatovic gained popularity by raising wages, but critics say this was done at the expense of an already exhausted health care system and not as a result of reform.


Leave a Reply