Montenegro’s government at risk as president quits ruling PES

Montenegro’s government at risk as president quits ruling PES
President Jakov Milatovic says the government's "way of working is contrary to what was promised and to values that I had in mind" in a statement on X. /
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 26, 2024

Montenegro’s ruling coalition has been destabilised by the unexpected decision of President Jakov Milatovic to quit the ruling Europe Now (PES) party, whose co-founder and deputy leader he was.

This poses a risk to the ruling coalition, which comprised 46 out of 81 MPs in the Montenegrin parliament. Some members of PES have already quit and local media suggested that at least two more MPs could do so too. That would leave Prime Minister Milojko Spajic with a fragile majority of 42 MPs unless some of the other small opposition parties agree to join the coalition.

However, some analysts argue that Milatovic’s resignation could result in greater transparency on the Montenegrin political scene, and will not affect the government’s stability.

PES was set up by Milatovic and Spajic, and named after a programme of reforms the two prepared while serving as ministers of economy and finance respectively in Zdravko Krivokapic's government.

PES has quickly gained popularity and won consecutively local, presidential and snap general elections after being formed in 2022. Moreover, Milatovic ousted from power veteran politician Milo Djukanovic who had been leading the country for over three decades.

However, after the general election, there were signs of tension between Milatovic and Spajic, with the president criticising the government for not always being transparent, and vetoing several laws, saying they were not well prepared.

In a statement on X (formerly Twitter), Milatovic said that when founding PES, the party’s leadership pledged transparency, and a rational and fact-based dialogue on policies that would be inclusive and sustainable.

“At the same time, we promised that competence and personal integrity would be decisive factors in hiring and promotion. We also promised a different political culture based on respect for diversity and affirmation of European values,” Milatovic wrote.

“The current way of working is contrary to what was promised and to values that I had in mind when creating the party. For this reason, I resign from all functions in PES,” Milatovic also wrote on February 24.

PES accused Milatovic of attempting to destabilise the government with his resignation.

The day after Milatovic’s resignation, PES excluded Justice Minister Andrej Milovic from the party and said that his post in the government will be taken by someone else amid a planned restructuring. On X, PES wrote that Milovic’s place in PES’ leadership will be taken by Energy and Mining Minister Sasa Mujovic.

According to public broadcaster RTCG, Milovic was dismissed following public comments and decisions that have negatively affected support for the government. In January, Milovic refused to extradite Turkish citizen Binali Camgoz, alleged leader of a criminal organisation who is accused of killing two people, because of his disability and Kurdish ethnicity, Balkan Insight reported.

In early February, he also had disagreements with the head of the Special Police Office, Predrag Sukovic, accusing him of carrying out a campaign in local media against PES. In return, he was accused by Sucovic of having connections to organised crime.

Following these changes, two PES MPs left the party. Meanwhile, PES dissolved its headquarters in the capital Podgorica and the town of Bar.