Montenegro’s Pro-European Party Sweeps General Elections

The Montenegrin president’s party, Europe now!, won the election on Sunday June 11 with 26% of the vote. The discussions to form a coalition promise to be complex.

The pro-European party Europe now! won the early legislative elections on Sunday June 11 in Montenegro, narrowly ahead of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). According to estimates by the specialized NGO Center for Democratic Transition (CDT), the party of the new Montenegrin President, Jakov Milatovic, elected in early April, obtained 26% of the vote. A result that will oblige Europe now! to carry out difficult negotiations to form a stable majority and try to put an end to years of political crisis.

Aged 35, the co-founder and president of the new party, Milojko Spajic, who is aiming for the post of prime minister, said he was “satisfied” with the result after “a difficult campaign”. “Tomorrow is another day. We will not be arrogant, we will sit down with all those who share our values” and “we will form a pro-European government”, he promised. Founded barely a year ago, Europe now! promises to move Montenegro along the European path, to bridge the religious and community divides that divide the country, where a third of the inhabitants identify as Serbs.

Sunday’s election took place two months after the historic presidential defeat of veteran local politician Milo Djukanovic, who for more than thirty years led the tiny Balkan country, bordering Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina , Serbia, Kosovo and Albania. Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists is estimated to have won around 23% of the vote.

Three years of crisis

After its historic defeat in the 2020 legislative elections, then the loss of the capital, Podgorica, the DPS seems to be in a worse position than Europe now! to form a coalition. The rest of the votes are distributed between different formations, including 15% obtained by a pro-Serb alliance. The official results will be announced in a few days.

Since the legislative elections of 2020, the country of 620,000 inhabitants has been going from crisis to crisis. Neither side managed to find a stable majority and two governments were overthrown by motions of no confidence. A member of NATO since 2017, Montenegro has been negotiating its accession to the European Union since 2010. But the paralysis of political institutions has hindered this rapprochement between the country and the EU.

Despite the high stakes, voters were not particularly motivated by the ballot: the turnout was 56.4%, compared to 76.6% in 2020, according to the CDT. “I would like to see a political appeasement and the coming to power of the forces sincerely attached to our march towards Europe,” Dragan Bjelic, a 72-year-old retired economist, told AFP on Sunday.

“Great Leap Forward”

The formation hoped to attract young voters eager to see new faces in charge. The party, accused of populism, has also promised to increase the level of pensions, reduce the working day and raise the minimum wage.

A few days before the election, Milojko Spajic was the target of a resounding controversy relayed by the interim Prime Minister, Dritan Abazovic, and his allies. They discussed his alleged links to the South Korean founder of the Terra cryptocurrency, Do Kwon, who was arrested in March in Montenegro. Accused of billions of dollars of fraud, Do Kwon is currently wanted by Washington and Seoul.

Economist and former finance minister Spajic again dismissed the claims on Sunday, saying it was “the latest attempt at sabotage” by his party. He promised Montenegro’s “great leap forward” economically. “We want to become the Singapore of Europe, the most business-friendly country in Europe. Obviously, our geopolitical objective is EU membership. This is the goal we will work hard on,” he promised.

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