Djukanovic risks second-round defeat in Montenegro’s presidential election

Djukanovic risks second-round defeat in Montenegro’s presidential election
Jakov Milatovic of Europe Now (left) will face incumbent President Milo Djukanovic (right) in the runoff on March 26. / Europe Now/DPS
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia March 19, 2023

Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro’s incumbent president who has been ruling the country for over three decades, will face the newest face in politics, Jakov Milatovic, deputy-leader of the Europe Now party, in the second round of the presidential election. 

Despite leading in the first round on March 19, Djukanovic could face his first personal defeat in the runoff as supporters of third-placed Andrija Mandic are expected to back Milatovic in the second round on April 2. 

In the first round of voting, Djukanovic had a clear lead, according to exit polls. 

The Centre for Democratic Transition (CDT) put the incumbent president on 36% of the vote, versus 28.5% for Milatovic. 

The Centre for Monitoring and Research (CEMI) expects the result to be somewhat closer, with 35.3% for Djukanovic and 29.2% for Milatovic.

Mandic, co-leader of the far-right pro-Russian Democratic Front (DF), came third with between 18.7% and 19.3% of the votes. After exit polls were published, Mandic said he would call on the DF’s supporters to back Milatovic in the second round so that Djukanovic is ousted from power.

“I call on our voters to vote for Milatovic, regardless of whether he respects our support that would be of decisive importance for his result,” Mandic said.

Another presidential candidate, Aleksa Becic, who came fourth, commented that candidates backed by the ruling coalition that ousted Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in the August 2020 general election gained 60% of the votes in the presidential elections.

“Citizens have sent very strong democratic message,” Becic said.

“It is a clear message after 20 defeats of the DPS over the past 30 months. This is the politics of the past, the citizens of Montenegro do not want to live with that politics anymore,” he added.

Neither Djukanovic nor Milatovic have commented so far the results.

Europe Now member Olivera Injac told public broadcaster TVCG that the election result gave a clear message to Djukanovic he must leave politics.

The incumbent president said few days prior to the vote that he will resign from his post as leader of the DPS. Djukanovic has led the party since the 1990s and was either president or prime minister of Montenegro for 35 years.

However, the DPS started losing support since 2020 when it lost a general election for the first time and went into opposition.

Although the ruling coalition comprising 20 parties that vary from far-right and pro-Russian to civic and pro-Western has not been functional due to its differences, the DPS failed to regain lost support over the past two years.

In the meantime, Milatovic and Europe Now’s leader, Milojko Spajic, seem tp be the new rising stars in Montenegro’s politics. The party, set up in the spring of 2022, beat the DPS in 11 out of 14 municipalities that held local elections in the autumn last year.

The two politicians gained popularity as ministers of economy and finance in the former government of Zdravko Krivokapic. They were the authors of the Europe Now programme of reforms that also envisaged a significant increase of wages and pensions in the country.

After the collapse of Krivokapic’s government, the two young politicians decided to start their own political project named after the reforms programme. Pro-Western and determined to push Montenegro towards EU membership, the party has emerged as the new alternative to the DPS – a party that is also oriented towards the West but was burdened by a number of corruption scandals over the years.

The turnout, according to Montenegro’s central election committee, DIK, was 64.06%. DIK should announce final results on March 20.