Montenegro’s opposition Europe Now picks new challenger to incumbent President Djukanovic

Montenegro’s opposition Europe Now picks new challenger to incumbent President Djukanovic
Jakov Milatovic will run in Montenegro's presidential election after co-founder Milojko Spajic was rejected for having Serbian citizenship. / Europe Now
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia February 24, 2023

Montenegro’s Europe Now party on February 23 nominated its deputy leader, Jakov Milatovic, for president, after the central election body (DIK) disqualified its first candidate for the post over alleged dual citizenship.

Europe Now, created by Milatovic and the party’s leader, Milojko Spajic, is seen as the most serious threat to President Milo Djukanovic or a candidate nominated by his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in the presidential race .

Milatovic’s nomination came a day after DIK decided to allow the party to propose a new candidate following the disqualification of Spajic over alleged Serbian citizenship.

DIK’s members were divided in taking the decision, with several of them insisting that the decision should only be taken after the interior ministry completes its probe launched earlier in February. Three members of DIK thought that Spajic’s application should be approved, while four were against and three did not vote.

Spajic reacted to DIK’s decision, saying it has shown that his rivals, Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the far-right pro-Russian Democratic Front (DF), are working in cooperation. Their members of DIK either voted against Spajic’s candidacy or abstained.

The deputy leader was proposed by Spajic and the nomination was accepted unanimously by the party’s leadership.

Milatovic was behind the better-than-expected performance of Europe Now in the October 2022 local election when it ousted DPS from the capital Podgorica. Set up six months before that, the party quickly gained popularity and support.

The 36-years-old Milatovic graduated in economics in Montenegro and subsequently at University of Oxford. He  hasworked for NLB Bank, Deutsche Bank and the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD).

Meanwhile, Andrija Mandic, the candidate of far-right pro-Russian Democratic Front, has said he has no Serbian citizenship. Montenegro’s interior ministry launched a probe into the citizenship of Mandic and Spajic.

Mandic also said that Spajic was responsible for his disqualification from the race as he had lied about his citizenship.

At the same time, the DPS was yet to decide who to nominate for the presidential race. Djukanovic was widely expected to run for another term. However, he might give up if his chances to win are slim.

The DPS said it would nominate a candidate by the end of the week, public broadcaster RTCG reported. It added that majority of local structures of the party proposed Djukanovic. The party’s deputy leader Ivan Vukovic is also among the most likely candidates.

So far, there is only one other candidate nominated for the race – Aleksa Becic, the leader of the Democratic Montenegro party.

Montenegro will hold a presidential election on March 19. Parties can nominate candidates by the end of February 24.