Illustrative photo – President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović (Milo Djukanović) in Podgorica on March 19, 2023.
Podgorica – The people of Montenegro are electing the head of state today, the position is defended by a pro-Western politician and a veteran of Montenegrin politics Milo Djukanovic. Polling stations will remain open until 8:00 p.m., and the first unofficial results are expected about two hours later, Reuters reported. According to the Montenegrin daily Pobjeda, the authorities already noticed the first irregularities in the morning.
Photo gallery: Elections in Montenegro
According to the APA agency, voter turnout in the morning was slightly higher than in the previous presidential elections in 2018. By 1:00 p.m. CET, 35.5 percent of eligible voters had cast their ballots.
The results of the two-round presidential election, according to observers will also affect early parliamentary elections planned for June. Montenegro has approximately 630,000 inhabitants and is a member of NATO.
Djukanovic's biggest rivals in the race for a five-year mandate are Democratic Front chairman Andrija Mandić, who advocates stronger relations with Serbia and Russia, and pro-Western economist, former finance minister and vice-chairman of the Europe Now movement Jakov Milatović.
“This is a chance for Montenegro to confirm that it can live in political and social stability and continue its integration among the united countries of Europe,” Djukanović told journalists after casting his vote.
After his election, Mandić told reporters that if he won, his presidency would create a “policy of reconciliation aimed at all citizens” and a policy of decisive fight against corruption and organized crime.
“I am sure that the people have decided to vote for a richer, fairer and more beautiful Montenegro,” said another candidate, Milatović, after casting his vote.
According to the newspaper Pobjeda, numerous irregularities were recorded in the morning, including an unsealed ballot box or voting without registration in the voter list. Until 09:00, the voter turnout was seven percent, with 542,154 eligible voters.
According to experts, none of the seven candidates in today's first round will likely receive more than 50 percent support, so it is likely that a decision will only be made in the planned second round on April 2. The two strongest candidates from the first round will advance to it.
Opponents accuse Djukanovic and his center-left Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of corruption or ties to organized crime. In addition, today's elections are taking place in the middle of a political crisis that has lasted for about a year, when no confidence was expressed in two governments and when a dispute flared up between MPs and Djukanovič over the president's refusal to appoint a new prime minister. On Thursday, Djukanović dissolved parliament and the country faces early parliamentary elections on June 11.
“I hope that people will open their eyes and that we will go for a better life,” 53-year-old voter Mirjana Aleksičová told Reuters after casting her ballot. at a local school in Podgorica.
Part of the country's population feels Montenegrin, while others identify as Serbs and have not been in favor of secession from Montenegro since the 2006 merger of Serbia and Montenegro. A country that relies mainly on revenues from tourism, joined NATO in 2017 and is applying for EU membership.
The entry into NATO was preceded by a failed coup attempt, which the Montenegrin government blamed on Russian agents and Serbian nationalists. After the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Montenegro joined the EU sanctions against Russia and found itself on the Kremlin's list of hostile countries.