Montenegro Reelects Pro-European Incumbent President

The ruling socialist party’s Filip Vujanović promises a “European” Montenegro.

Montenegro reelected incumbent president Filip Vujanović last week by less than 8,000 votes, the Balkan nation’s electoral committee announced on Monday. Both the ruling socialist party’s candidate and his conservative challenger Miodrag Lekić had claimed victory.

Vujanović has held the presidency since Montenegro seceded from Serbia in 2006. The post is largely ceremonial. Real power is held by the prime minister, Milo Đukanović, also a Social Democrat.

Whereas Lekić campaigned against corruption and the political status quo, accusing the ruling party of monopolizing power and comparing his opponent’s premature victory claim to a “coup d’état,” the incumbent promised a “European” Montenegro by intensifying negotiations for accession to the European Union which began last year. Montenegro is considered next in line to join the bloc.

Of the former Yugoslavian states, only Slovenia is currently in the European Union. Croatia will join in July.

According to Vujanović, European Union membership is a preconditions for improved living conditions in Montenegro. The country’s industry has been in decline since the breakup of Yugoslavia and it is currently in transition to a services-based economy. Market reforms and privatizations enacted since the beginning of the century have improved Montenegrin competitiveness. Inflation has dropped from an historic high of 26.5 percent in 2001 to 3.3 percent at present. Unemployment has decreased from a high of 31 percent in 2002 to under 14 percent in January of this year. It has no currency of its own and unilaterally adopted the euro.

Allegations of leading politicians’ ties with organized crime persist, however. The prime minister was investigated by Italian police for his suspected involvement in the smuggling of cigarettes. Those charges were dropped in 2009.