The long-serving leader of Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), Milo Đukanovic, will run for president in the elections on April 15.
Đukanovic reportedly defeated the former defence minister Milica Pejanovic Durisic in an internal DPS selection process to win the candidacy.
Đukanovic, 56, first served as prime minister during the break up of the Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and stewarded Montenegro’s formation into a new political entity with Serbia. However, in 2006, during his fourth term as prime minister, he spearheaded Montenegro’s independence from its larger neighbour and subsequently charted the countries path towards NATO membership in 2017.
Undisputed leader of Montenegro for a quarter of a century, Đukanovic served as prime minister for four terms and was from 1998 to 2002 president of the small Balkan country.
During his time in power Đukanovic faced down repeated allegations of corruption and cronyism leading to speculation that Brussels may demand that he not run for office again if Montenegro wants to remain on course to join the EU.
The elections of April 15 will be the third presidential elections in Montenegro since its independence in 2006 If no candidate obtains an absolute majority in the first round, a second would be held two weeks later.
Montenegro has been in a state of political tension since the opposition parties refused to accept the results of the parliamentary elections of October 2016 until the events surrounding an alleged pro-Russian coup attempt on election day have been fully investigated.
Opposition groups had suggested the discovery of the alleged plot was nothing more than propaganda circulated by Đukanovic’s DPS, which they claimed was trying to use the country’s security services to extend its leader’s grip on power.
For his part, Đukanovic had previously accused parties standing against him of accepting money from Russians groups looking to influence the vote.