Jakov Milatovic, Montenegro’s former Economy Minister, has emerged victorious in the country’s presidential election run-off, defeating long-time incumbent Milo Djukanovic. Milatovic, who leads the right-centrist Europe Now Movement, declared his victory to cheering supporters in Podgorica on Sunday, stating that “within the next five years, we will lead Montenegro into the European Union.” Djukanovic, who has held various political positions in Montenegro for decades, acknowledged his defeat and congratulated Milatovic. His loss represents a significant setback for Djukanovic, who oversaw Montenegro’s declaration of independence in 2006.
The Montenegrin president holds a mostly ceremonial position, with most of the political power residing with the prime minister. Milatovic’s victory is expected to have an impact on the balance of power in the Balkan nation ahead of snap parliamentary elections in June, following months of gridlock after the government collapsed in August 2022.
Milatovic appeared to capture the support of young voters looking for fresh faces in leadership and was favoured in surveys leading up to the election. As Minister of Economic Development after the 2020 parliamentary elections, he made headlines with a controversial economic programme that doubled the minimum wage. However, the minimum wage remains low at just 450 euros ($490) a month in the country, which relies heavily on tourism due to its picturesque beaches and rugged mountains.
Meanwhile, Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has suffered repeated setbacks since its first major defeat in the 2020 parliamentary elections. Under his leadership, Montenegro joined NATO, began negotiations for EU membership and moved away from Russia’s influence.
Milatovic’s victory is expected to bring change to Montenegro’s political scene and may signal a shift towards a younger generation of leaders.