Milo Djukanovic, presidential candidate of the ruling Social Democrats Party in Montenegro, votes in Podgorica on 15 April 2018
The historic leader of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, found on Sunday a power abandoned less than two years ago, after his victory in the first round of presidential elections in this small Balkan country candidate for entry into the European Union.
This is „the victory of the European future of Montenegro“, responded Milo Djukanovic who pledged to work throughout his five-year mandate to bring his country of 620,000 people closer to the EU.
Ally of the West, he had left his post of prime minister in October 2016, after virtually running Montenegro for almost a quarter of a century, leading to Serbia’s independence in 2006, and then joining the NATO, effective for a year.
With Milo Djukanovic, the post of head of state, whose functions were purely honorary during the terms of his predecessor and political ally Filip Vujanovic, will again become the real seat of power.
According to the independent NGO Center for Monitoring (CEMI), to announce the preliminary results, Milo Djukanovic obtains nearly 54% of the vote, far ahead of his closest opponent, Mladen Bojanic, credited with a third of the votes.
Refusing to congratulate him, however, he recognized the victory of his opponent, saying simply: „Montenegro chose what he chose.
– In the calm –
While the 2016 legislative elections were marked by the arrest of some 20 militants opposed to NATO, accused of having wanted to foment a coup d’état, the vote this time proceeded in the calm, without serious incidents.
During the campaign, in Podgorica, the capital city where more than a third of the population lives, the posters of Milo Djukanovic, „leader, statesman, president of all the citizens“, occupied most of the billboards, leaving the portion congruent to his six opponents.
Mladen Bojanic, opposition candidate in the Montenegrin presidential election, addresses the media in front of a polling station in Podgorica on April 15, 2018
Supported by the main opposition parties, whether pro-Russian or not, Mladen Bojanic, 56, who said he believed in victory and called for union against Milo Djukanovic for the second round, did not cause a surprise.
After voting, he called for „an end to the rule of an autocrat who wants to turn Montenegro into a dictatorship“. „I will continue to fight,“ said Mladen Bojanic.
Sasa Jankovic, a 55-year-old engineer, explained by voting that he would like to „see someone else in the presidential seat“ as Milo Djukanovic. But he had no illusions: „It’s a little sad: I’ve only seen the domination of a man, and it’s even sadder that there is currently no alternative solution. „.
As for the only openly pro-Russian candidate, Marko Milacic, a 32-year-old journalist, receives only about 3% of the vote.
„There is the feeling that Russia understands the limits of its influence without giving up in the long run,“ said expert Zlatko Vujovic, director of CEMI.
– Economic difficulties –
Milo Djukanovic has also moderated his rhetoric hostile to the Kremlin, declaring himself ready to „establish normal relations with Russia, if it is also ready to do so“.
The Montenegrin judicial authorities have accused Russian institutions of being behind the coup attempt of October 2016, which Moscow denies.
A man is about to vote for the next President of Montenegro in Podgorica on April 15, 2018
For its part, the opposition attacked Milo Djukanovic on the weight of organized crime, against the backdrop of settling accounts between traffickers. She has long accused him of having links with criminal circles.
In a country where unemployment exceeds 20%, Milo Djukanovic has committed to doubling the average salary, currently 500 euros, in a few years. This commitment, he pleaded, will only be held if Montenegro does not deviate from the path towards EU membership.