Montenegro’s longtime leader, Milo Đukanović, has dissolved parliament, clearing the way for an early general election after months of political paralysis in the small Balkan nation.
The crisis in the Nato country, which is seeking EU membership, has raised concerns in the west, amid fears Russia is waging a campaign of destabilisation that could have implications for the wider Balkans region.
Last year Montenegro was targeted by a massive cyber attack that Podgorica blamed on Moscow.
The pro-EU Dukanović, the longest-serving leader in the Balkans who faces a presidential election this weekend, on Friday set the date for parliamentary elections for June 11, nearly 10 months after a vote of no confidence in the conservative government last August.
Speaking to parliament on Friday, Dukanović said Montenegro was “completely paralysed on the European path” and that “political and institutional agony should be ended as soon as possible”.
In Montenegro as in the rest of the Balkans, western powers have jockeyed for influence with Moscow and Beijing amid concerns that the region is a potential weak spot for Europe as it faces challenges from Russia’s aggression in the east as well as China’s economic advances.
The move to hold early elections comes after a long running stalemate in the Constitutional Court caused by politicians failing to agree on the appointment of new judges, an impasse which only ended last month.
“Montenegro must quickly re-establish a functioning Constitutional Court . . . to ensure the credibility of elections,” US ambassador Judy Rising Reinke wrote in January.
In its 2022 report on Montenegro, the European Commission said the country’s decision-making processes and its implementation of reforms had been stalled by “political volatility, government instability and tensions”, although it acknowledged Montenegro’s “full alignment with the EU’s foreign and security policy”.
Đukanović, who spearheaded Montenegro’s campaign to join Nato, escaped an assassination attempt in 2016 blamed on Russian military operatives, a year before the country’s accession to the military alliance. Two ethnic Serb politicians in Montenegro’s parliament were jailed for their part in the plot to bring down Đukanović and the DPS-led coalition government.
In 2020 it was defeated by a coalition that included pro-Serb and pro-Russian groups. A wafer-thin majority of a single seat heralded a period of political…
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