PODGORICA (Reuters) – The frontrunner in Sunday’s presidential election in Montenegro mentioned he desires nearer ties to the West and would additionally welcome improved relations with Russia that soured when the nation turned NATO’s latest member.
Milo Djukanovic is the candidate of the ruling Democratic Get together of Socialists and polls put him forward of the opposition bloc’s Mladen Bojanic, a businessman who favors nearer ties with Russia and neighboring and far bigger Serbia.
The previous Yugoslav republic joined the navy alliance final yr and hopes to affix the European Union in 2025 concurrently Serbia, although it should first reform the rule of legislation and eradicate corruption, nepotism and crimson tape.
In different indicators of strains with Moscow, Montenegro final month expelled a Russian diplomat over the poisoning of a former Russian double agent that the British authorities has blamed on Moscow. The Kremlin then expelled a Montenegrin diplomat.
Montenegro additionally joined EU sanctions in opposition to Russia in 2014 over its annexation of Ukraine’s Crimea peninsula.
On Thursday Djukanovic mentioned Montenegro was concerned in a battle between nice powers.
“Disturbed relations between Moscow and Podgorica are a mirrored image of disturbed relations on the worldwide stage … we hope these relations will recuperate,” he mentioned. “Montenegro is … prepared to just accept each initiative that will result in the restoration of bilateral relations between us and different international locations.”
In 2016, the Kremlin needed to “ship a message to Europe and America” that NATO enlargement to the Balkans would intrude on its sphere of pursuits, mentioned the 56-year-old.
On Wednesday, Putin informed Montenegro’s new ambassador to Russia that the Kremlin was in favor of growing relations with the nation.
Djukanovic mentioned the remarks had been encouraging: “It will be necessary to see what deeds will comply with such an evaluation.”
Djukanovic is a former communist who rose to prominence within the late 1980s earlier than the collapse of Yugoslavia in 1991. He led Montenegro, a rustic of 620,000, in the course of the Balkan wars within the early 1990s, a cut up with its former federal companion Serbia in 2006 and into NATO membership.
He denies opposition accusations that he fosters cronyism and corruption. Djukanovic served six phrases as prime minister and one as president with three temporary interruptions.
“(Victory) is extra necessary for Montenegro and its path than to me personally, I’m somebody who has fulfilled my ambitions in politics,” he mentioned at his get together’s workplace within the capital Podgorica.
He mentioned he was assured of profitable and that his defeat would give anti-Western opposition events a chance to query NATO membership and would additionally sluggish the EU membership bid.
Montenegrin prosecutors say a gaggle of Serb nationalists and Russian brokers plotted to kill Djukanovic throughout a coup try on the 2016 election to stop Montenegro from becoming a member of NATO. The Kremlin dismissed such allegations as absurd.
After the vote, he stepped down as prime minister naming his shut ally Dusko Markovic to the put up. Djukanovic remained on the helm of the ruling get together and final month mentioned he would run for president once more, citing “duty in direction of Montenegro’s future.”
A survey by the Podgorica-based Centre for Democratic Transition in late March gave Djukanovic 50.6 % and Bojanic 35.5 %. Different candidates had been in single digits.
Enhancing by Matthew Mpoke Bigg