Five-time PM set to return to power in Montenegro

Sat, Oct 13, 2012, 01:00

A FAMILIAR figure is likely to come out on top of tomorrow’s parliamentary election in Montenegro: former president and five-time prime minister Milo Djukanovic.

Mr Djukanovic (50) has dominated politics in the tiny Adriatic state since the collapse of Yugoslavia in the early 1990s, winning every election he has entered, championing Montenegro’s break with Serbia in 2006 and pushing for EU and Nato membership.

Mr Djukanovic stepped out of politics two years ago and ushered ally Igor Luksic into the post of prime minister, but he has led campaigning for the ruling centre-left coalition ahead of this election and has not scotched rumours that he intends to return to office after the vote. Mr Djukanovic says his coalition is the only force that will defend Montenegro’s independence from its much larger neighbour, Serbia, while keeping it on track to possibly join Nato late next year or in 2014 and to make strong progress in EU accession talks that began in June.

Surveys suggest Mr Djukanovic’s alliance will take 47 per cent of the vote, and could secure a majority in the 81-seat parliament by making deals with some smaller opposition parties.

The main opposition party is the Democratic Front led by former foreign minister Miodrag Lekic, which supports EU integration but opposes membership of Nato.

The alliance is best remembered in Montenegro for bombing Serb forces out of Kosovo in 1999. Mr Lekic insists his party is not pro-Serb, but it does enjoy support among the large Serb community in Montenegro, and is depicted as an ally of Belgrade by Mr Djukanovic and his allies.

The Democratic Front says Mr Djukanovic is sowing division among Montenegro’s 620,000 people, and accuses the government of turning a blind eye to rampant graft and mismanaging of the economy.

After growing strongly for several years, thanks largely to an influx of foreign investment in property and tourism, Montenegro’s economy has slowed sharply, unemployment is about 20 per cent, the average monthly wage is stuck at about €480 and government debt has climbed to 58 per cent of gross domestic product.

The EU said this week that Montenegro had implemented some important economic reforms but had to do more to strengthen the legal system and fight corruption and organised crime.

Mr Djukanovic and his clique have repeatedly been accused of involvement in smuggling and other illegal activities, allegations they have always denied.