Djukanovic likely to run for Montenegrin presidency in 2018

Djukanovic likely to run for Montenegrin presidency in 2018
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia October 27, 2016

Montenegro’s veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has backed off from leading a new government after the October 16 general election, will most likely run for president in 2018, political analysts have forecast.

On October 26, the management of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), led by Djukanovic, confirmed an earlier decision of the party to nominate Dusko Markovic – Djukanovic’s loyal deputy – for prime minister. There are questions about the reasons behind the move, which was not explained by the DPS, but a new prime minister seems to be more acceptable to the party’s potential coalition partners.

According to preliminary results from Montenegro’s central election body, DIK, 41.42% of the votes were cast for the DPS on October 16, securing the party 36 seats in the parliament. The party is hoping to attract the parties representing ethnic minorities and at least one more opposition party to form a coalition under Markovic, who is a deputy prime minister in the current government. He was previously head of the agency for national security.

Despite giving up on heading a new government, Djukanovic will remain the party leader at least until 2020, when the DPS will hold a congress, according to unofficial information from local daily Pobjeda. The politician, who has served as either prime minister or president for most of the last 25 years, has announced twice before that he will step down and retire from politics – in 2006 and 2010. Both times he had two-year breaks, but returned to politics.

Croatian political analyst Stjepan Malovic believes that Djukanovic will return to power in the presidential elections in 2018. “Why not? This has been seen already. There will be elections and he could run. This will depend on the political momentum and the balance of forces. DPS is still the biggest party and will not lose this position with the number of seats it has gained,” Malovic told local news outlet CDM. He added that Djukanovic will remain active in politics as the leader of the DPS.

Markovic’s nomination was not a surprise as he has been mentioned as an option among politicians before. According to political analyst Zlatko Vujovic, the DPS gave a clear signal that it would nominate Markovic during the election campaign, when he seemed to be more active than Djukanovic.

“The strategy of DPS was that Djukanovic will bear the main burden of the campaign, including the conflicts with opposition leaders and with former coalition partners. This provided Markovic with bigger space for manoeuvering and he sustained good relations with a significant part of the political parties, especially with the leaders of the SDP [the DPS’ former long-term ally, the Social Democratic Party]. Markovic’s position gives him a bigger chance to succeed in forming a government with broader support in the parliament,” Vujovic told Portalanalitika.me.

Many analysts see Markovic as a figure who will continue Djukanovic’s politics and move in the same direction as the veteran prime minister.

“It is not very important whether Markovic or Djukanovic [will form the government], because we are talking about continuity in government and in the style of ruling… If that Markovic gathers a majority to form a new government, I don’t expect significant news in the way of ruling the country,” CDM quoted Boris Raonic, executive director of the NGO Civil Alliance, as saying.

Meanwhile, the DPS's possible coalition parties declined to comment on the nomination. “At this moment we would not comment on this as we haven’t decided on a future coalition yet,” CDM quoted Suljo Mustafic, the political director of the Bosniak Party, as saying.

However, Mustafic gave a high assessment of Markovic’s experience and knowledge. “When it comes to Markovic, he is undoubtedly ... statesmanlike, [he] has previously occupied high and responsible state functions. Also, he knows very well the functioning of the executive power… and he understands well the state priorities in both internal and international politics,” Mustafovic said.

The DPS hopes to form a new coalition quickly and name a new government by mid-November. However, a group of opposition parties will have roughly the same number of MPs in the new parliament as the DPS, so it is still questionable who will gain a majority to form a government. Both sides – the DPS and the opposition – are trying to attract the ethnic parties to their side.

The ethnic parties, which have traditionally backed the DPS, met on October 24 and decided to draft a common platform before choosing which side to back in the new parliament.

While not commenting on his decision to stand aside, Djukanovic hinted on October 25 that Russia was behind what Podgorica is calling an attempted coup on the eve of the general election, even though there are growing indications that the incident was masterminded by Djukanovic supporters within the security service. 

According to a DPS statement, Djukanovic referred to the “involvement of foreign interests in the election process in Montenegro” at a meeting with the head of the OSCE election observation mission Romana Jakiča and political analyst Misije Zainu Ismailovu on October 25.

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