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Montenegro’s president dissolves parliament as election nears

Milo Djukanovic dissolves national assembly after prime ministerial candidate fails to form government.

Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic issued a decree to dissolve parliament days before the presidential election.

The move on Thursday came as a three-month legal deadline expired for former top diplomat and prime ministerial candidate Miodrag Lekic to form a government.

According to the country’s constitution, elections must be held the day after parliament is dissolved. The president must set a date for a new parliamentary vote 60 to 100 days after the decree.

Parliament was dismissed before Montenegrins were due to go to the polls on Sunday to elect a president. Djukanovic, who has held senior political positions in Montenegro for the past 30 years, is one of seven candidates.

Political unrest in Montenegro has worsened since the 2020 parliamentary elections, in which Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists suffered a historic defeat to a church-backed coalition.

Since then, two governments have fallen, the last in August, which nevertheless persisted, sparking a wave of protests and calls for early elections.

While Montenegro’s president plays a largely ceremonial role, analysts see Sunday’s vote as a potential turning point in the country’s political troubles.

Djukanovic, the architect of Montenegro’s independence from Serbia in 2006, remains the favourite. However, he is a controversial figure accused of corruption, ties to organized crime and attacks on independent journalists – allegations he denies.

The 61-year-old faces stiff competition, particularly from Andrija Mandic, the candidate of the pro-Russian Democratic Front.

The other two main rivals are Jakov Milatovic, a young economist from the increasingly popular Europe Now movement, and the leader of the centre-right Democrats.

If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, a second round will be held on April 2, which is a likely outcome.

The country of 620,000, a third of whom identify as Serb, is a member of NATO and is striving to join the European Union.

Over the years, Montenegro has been divided between those who identify as Montenegrins and those who see themselves as Serbs and oppose the country’s independence from Serbia.