Controversial Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has resigned after more than 25 years in power after his party posted disappointing results in this month’s parliamentary elections.
Djukanovic, who was last year awarded the title of Man of the Year in Organised Crime by the Organised Crime and Corruption Reporting Project (OCCRP), stepped down unchallenged after a quarter of a century serving Montenegro as either President or Prime Minister.
Dusko Markovic, Djukanovic’s deputy, has been nominated to take over.
Despite having faced accusations of tobacco smuggling with an Italian mafia clan, profiteering from corrupt sell-offs of public assets and collusion with serious and organised criminal groups, Djukanovic has never been successfully prosecuted over his alleged crooked behaviour. However, polls taken before Montenegro’s 16 October elections suggested that corruption was one of the reasons Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) looked set to lose ground to its opponents.
Djukanovic’s resignation came days after Serbia said it had arrested several people with foreign links on suspicion of spying on him. On the day of the election, local media reported that police had detained a number of Serbian parliamentarians over a plot to kidnap Djukanovic. Throughout the election campaign, Djukanovic accused his opponents of taking funding from Russia, and attempted to position the poll as a choice between moving closer to Europe or cosying up with Moscow.
Announcing Djukanovic’s decision to step down, the DPS gave no reason for his sudden resignation.
If the Montenegrin people had been hoping that a change of DPS leadership might signal an end to the institutionalised corruption that has blighted the country for so long, the decision to put Markovic forward as the potential head of a new governing coalition will likely leave many disappointed.
While not boasting an alleged rap sheet as long and accomplished as Djukanovic’s, Markovic has faced charges for allegedly concealing information during an investigation into the murder of a journalist who edited a paper that was critical of the government. Dusko Jovanovic was editor-in-chief and owner of the opposition newspaper Dan. Prosecutors claimed Markovic knew Jovanovic’s life was in danger, but did nothing to prevent his death.
Despite finally agreeing to relinquish power, analysts expect Djukanovic to remain influential, not least due to the fact that he is to stay on as leader of the DPS and maintains close ties to Markovic. Speaking with AFP after his resignation was announced, Balkans expert Dr James Ker-Lindsay said Djukanovic will remain “ever-present in Montenegro”, and that news of his decision to hand over the reins of power should be “taken with a pinch of salt”.