PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Voters in Montenegro are casting ballots Sunday in a presidential election marked by political turmoil and uncertainty over whether or not the small NATO member state within the Balkans will unblock its bid to affix the European Union or search to enhance ties with Serbia and Russia.
Analysts predict that Montenegro’s presidential election won’t produce a transparent winner and that incumbent Milo Djukanovic, 61, will face one in all a number of challengers in a runoff vote in two weeks. Although the presidency is essentially ceremonial in Montenegro, the poll is seen as a key indicator of standard sentiments forward of an early parliamentary election set for June 11.
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Djukanovic’s opponents embrace a pacesetter of the staunchly pro-Serbia and pro-Russia Common Entrance social gathering, Andrija Mandic, economist Jakov Milatovic of the newly-formed Europe Now group and former parliament speaker Aleksa Becic.
Observers say Milatovic, who served within the authorities elected after the 2020 parliamentary vote however later break up from the ruling coalition, could stand the very best probability of constructing it into the runoff towards Djukanovic.
Djukanovic and his Democratic Occasion of Socialists led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006, and defied Russia to affix NATO in 2017. An alliance dominated by events looking for nearer ties with Serbia and Russia ousted DPS from energy in 2020.
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The brand new ruling alliance, nonetheless, quickly plunged into disarray, which stalled Montenegro’s path towards the EU and created a political impasse. The most recent authorities fell in a no-confidence vote in August however has remained in workplace for months due to the stalemate.
Djukanovic — who has served a number of occasions as each president and prime minister previously 30 years — has seen his recognition plummet following the ouster in 2020 of a DPS-dominated coalition. He now hopes to regain belief amongst Montenegro’s roughly 540,000 eligible voters and assist pave the best way for his social gathering’s return to energy.
Djukanovic has portrayed the presidential election as a alternative between an unbiased Montenegro and a rustic managed by neighboring Serbia and Russia.
“Just a few years in the past, nobody might think about that we might as soon as once more wage a decisive battle for the survival of Montenegro,” he advised supporters. “Sadly, with the change of energy two and a half years in the past, the horizon of European values has been irresponsibly closed.”
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The political chaos and stalled reforms in a rustic lengthy seen as the subsequent in line for European Union membership has alarmed U.S. and EU officers, who concern Russia might attempt to stir hassle within the Balkans to divert consideration from the conflict in Ukraine.
Montenegro’s 620,000 residents stay deeply divided between supporters of Djukanovic’s insurance policies and people who view themselves as Serbs and need Montenegro to ally itself with Serbia and fellow-Slavic Russia.
The Common Entrance social gathering’s Mandic, who was accused of being a part of a Russia-orchestrated 2016 coup try, has sought to current himself as a conciliatory determine throughout the marketing campaign, saying his foremost objective as president could be to bridge the Montenegrin divide.
Milatovic, the economist, has accused Djukanovic and his social gathering of corruption, saying the president’s closing elimination from energy is important for Montenegro to maneuver ahead.