In Montenegro, the runoff presidential election will be held on 2 April 2023. In the first round held on 19 March 2023 the most votes were won by Milo Đukanović (11,9673 votes or 35.37%) and Jakov Milatović (97,858 votes or 28.92%). The turnout was 64.06% (341,551). The president is elected for a five-year term of office.
61-year old Milo Đukanović, a graduate in economics, is the candidate of the Democratic Party of Socialists. He is running for president for the third term, while he has already served five terms as the Prime Minister of Montenegro. He is the leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
Jakov Milatović (aged 36), also an economist and former Minister of Economic Development, is the candidate of the Europe Now Movement. He entered politics after the 2020 elections which were the turning point for Montenegro. He is the deputy president of the newly established movement Europe Now. Milatović is pro-European and pro-Western, and that’s exactly what got him votes.
This presidential election will finally bring an end to the long era of DPS regime which, after its electoral defeat in 2020, also lost in the local elections. Đukanović’s defeat would finally bring the downfall of DPS, which has been in absolute power in Montenegro since the introduction of the multi-party system, i.e.from 1990 till 2020. The President of Montenegro has no significant powers.
However, the forthcoming runoff election will be crucial for Đukanović’s destiny as well as for the parliamentary election, which has been scheduled for 11 June 2023 with the possibility of postponement.
Continuation of democratic changes
Milo Đukanović came to power in 1989 through the so-called anti-bureaucratic revolution on the wings of Serbian nationalism led by Slobodan Milošević. Đukanović became one of Milošević’s closest and most trusted allies. He established close ties with Russia, which resulted in the privatisation of state ownership when 30% of the Montenegrin economy was bought by Russian owners.
Đukanović took an active role in the Former Yugoslav wars, for which has not yet been prosecuted. During the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina he provided logistic support to Radovan Karadžić and his project to create Republika Srpska.
Montenegro under Đukanović’s malignant influence
The second round of election campaign is marked by Đukanović’s enemy construction and his allegations about threats to the statehood of Montenegro from the so-called Greater Serbia project, Serbian Orthodox Church (SPC) and Russia. However, the biggest threat to Montenegro is posed by Đukanović’s malignant influence. As Žarko Puhovski stated: “We should not forget that in the meantime Montenegro (led by Đukanović) began to behave in the same way as Austria after World War II. Namely, it declared itself the first victim of Milošević, just as Austria declared itself the first victim of Hitler, and not an accomplice in the war, which is what Austria and Montenegro were in these two respective cases.”
Even today, Đukanović is trying to “sell” such a story to the Bosniaks and Albanians, not only in Montenegro.
Former President of Albania Ilir Meta said regarding the projects for Greater Albania and Greater Serbia: “Greater Serbia failed, Greater Albania is not possible.”
Analysts believe that Đukanović’s regime must be exposed, bearing in mind that Montenegro is a full member of NATO and as such bound by the highest democratic standards which it should apply and promote, but from which it is still quite far away.
It is incredible that Đukanović should claim that Serbia wants and can attack the country, which is a member of NATO – the largest and strongest military alliance in the world. Moreover, it has not yet been recorded that Russia has attacked any member state of NATO since its foundation in 1949, so enemy construction is obviously Đukanović’s modus operandi.
Bosniaks and Albanians are Đukanović’s victims
About 20% of Montenegro’s population (Bosniaks and Albanians) have been “hostages” to Đukanović regime for several decades. Namely, a few Bosnian and Albanian individuals and some of their family members, who enjoy the regime’s privileges, have created a false image of integration of these two ethnic communities, thus deceiving the local and international public about the supposed inter-ethnic harmony in Montenegro. In fact, as the victims of Đukanović’s regime, the Bosniaks were forced to vote for their offender under fear of threats.
There is numerous written evidence that in his former role of the Prime Minister of Montenegro Đukanović took part in the activities of the Supreme Defence Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, and is thus put in connection with war crimes and genocide committed in Srebrenica. The question is whether Bosniaks have forgotten or are keeping silent about the fact that Milo Đukanović was the closest associate of Slobodan Milošević (SPS) and that he remained the only high-ranking official from the war period who has not yet been prosecuted, even though war crimes do not have a statute of limitations.
Analysts have noted that the Bosniak and Albanian parties are put to a special democratic and moral test. If they want to “wash away” the stain which shows them as the collaborators of the regime, they now have a chance for a democratic turn to the future by rejecting any further cooperation with Đukanović and DPS. Since 1991 Đukanović has developed special relations with the leaders of Republika Srpska. At the time of international sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), the main war suppliers of Radovan Karadžić and Ratko Mladić were Đukanović and his brother, who supported the war machine of those war criminals with the resulting genocide in Srebrenica. It is clear from Milo Đukanović’s statements that for him Bosniaks and Albanians are nothing but a “reservoir of votes”. It is therefore important that members of minority communities do not succumb to Đukanović’s strong pressure, but instead build their future with other fellow citizens without Đukanović, whose political career is coming to an end.
However, it will not be easy for Bosniaks and Albanians to make that change in course, since certain individuals from those communities are involved in crime and corruption and some were even involved in the war in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia together with Đukanović. Đukanović’s crime and corruption are greater than Greater Serbia. His regime receives the strongest support from the Republic of Croatia. Montenegro and Croatia have found sponsors in China and the Russian Federation and they are trying to present and justify their non-transparent relations with those two countries as “good business moves”.
With a pen in hand to democracy
Presidential election in Montenegro is taking place at the time when early parliamentary election has been scheduled for 11 June 2023 as well as during Montenegro Prime Minister Dritan Abazović’s visit to the USA. The forthcoming runoff presidential election is the last chance to make a change in the political position that has been held by one person since 1989. It is considered that the transition process is completed once the holders of all key positions are democratically replaced. Thus, the forthcoming election will symbolically represent the end of the transition in Montenegro.
Analysts believe it is vital that at the upcoming elections the citizens of Montenegro, united in all their differences, without fear or foreign influences democratically oppose the decades-long regime of Milo Đukanović and with a pen in hand topple that regime, so that finally after 34 years Montenegro would democratically defeat Đukanović. Although Đukanović came to power through a revolution, he will be ousted from power democratically. In this process, besides the votes of members of minority communities and the diaspora, an important role will also be played by young voters who will have to choose between the past and the future. Large election turnout is crucial for the legitimacy of the future president.
Votes for Jakov Milatović represent those who support EU membership, and his victory would be an incentive for the EU to speed up the accession process for Montenegro’s membership. Allegations that Milatović is under Serbian and Russian influence – when we know that he has studied and worked in the Western countries all his life – are unfounded. If Milatović can be labelled as allegedly preferring a pro-Serbian option, then this is also one of his qualities, which can help reconcile the antagonisms present in Montenegrin society. Milatović may be acceptable for the majority in Montenegro. According to Đukanović’s matrix, all his political opponents work for Serbs or Serbia. Milatović should be aware of the fact that he would be responsible for the eventual straying from the NATO and EU path, which could ultimately cause internal conflicts in Montenegro. Milatović is the one who could balance between the two options in Montenegro, i.e. between the “West” and the “East”, in the interest of the country’s progress and a bright future.
It is important that positive processes have started in the region, which are slowly but surely eliminating the politicians connected with crime and corruption, such as Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE), Hashim Thaci (PDK), Bojko Borisov (GERB), which will be followed by Milo Đukanović (DPS) and Edi Rama (PS).
Analysts believe that that the removal of Đukanović will pave the way for Montenegro’s accelerated EU membership process, which is currently blocked because of Đukanović. Thus, from April 2, the post-Đukanović era will begin in Montenegro.