Montenegro’s longtime leaders Milo Djukanovic conceded defeat to Jakov Milatovic.

Montenegro’s former economy minister, Jakov Milatovic, won the runoff in the presidential election ahead of longtime incumbent Milo Djukanovic.

Tonight is the night we’ve been waiting for over 30 years,” Milatovic told jubilant supporters of his right-wing Europe Now movement at their party headquarters in Podgorica on Sunday.

“Within the next five years we will bring Montenegro into the European Union,” he said.

Montenegro’s longtime leaders Djukanovic conceded defeat to Milatovic.

“Montenegro has made its choice. I respect this decision and congratulate Jakov Milatovic,” Djukanovic, who will remain in his post until the handover on May 21, told his supporters at the headquarters of his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in Podgorica.

A political pillar in Montenegro for decades, Djukanovic has moved through various positions – including several stints as president and prime minister.

The runoff came two weeks after the first round, in which Djukanovic beat back a number of opponents in hopes of shaking up the political scene. In that race, Djukanovic received 35 percent of the vote, compared to 29 percent for Milatovic.

Milo Djukanovic, President of Montenegro and candidate of the Democratic Socialist Party, speaks at his party’s headquarters on the day of the runoff in the presidential elections in Podgorica, Montenegro April 2, 2023 [Stevo Vasiljevic/Reuters]

Sunday’s defeat marks one of Djukanovic’s biggest setbacks since he first took the helm of the former Yugoslav republic in 1991 and later oversaw its declaration of independence in 2006.

His defeat is likely to weigh heavily on the balance of power in the Balkan nation ahead of snap general elections in June, after the government collapsed following a no-confidence vote in August.

Montenegro’s president, who is elected for a five-year term, holds a mainly ceremonial position and most political power rests with the prime minister.

Milatovic favored

Ahead of Sunday’s vote, Milatovic seemed to capture the zeal of young voters looking for fresh faces in the country’s leadership. He was also preferred in polls.

Milatovic made political headlines as economy minister after the 2020 general election that resulted in the first non-DPS government.

The father of three made a name for himself with a controversial economic program that, among other things, doubled the minimum wage.

Still, the minimum wage in the tiny country, which depends heavily on tourism thanks to its picturesque Adriatic beaches and rugged mountains, is just €450 a month.

The DPS, on the other hand, has suffered repeated setbacks since its first major defeat in the 2020 parliamentary elections.

Since then, Montenegro has stumbled from crisis to crisis in which two governments have fallen.

Under the leadership of Djukanovic and his party, Montenegro joined NATO, started the negotiation process for EU membership and moved away from Russian influence.


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