Montenegro's Top Political Survivor to Run for President Again

(Bloomberg) -- The most powerful politician in Montenegro’s short modern existence as an independent country expects to reclaim the ex-communist state’s presidency in a vote next month after being tapped as the ruling party’s candidate.

Milo Djukanovic, who led the Balkan state of 620,000 people through the federation’s violent breakup, into NATO and on the path to joining the European Union, is mounting a comeback. He stepped aside in 2016 after his government accused Russia of staging a failed coup and assassination attempt against him on the night of parliamentary elections that his party narrowly won.

“We will be convincing enough to win in the first round of the election,” Djukanovic said after receiving the nomination from his Democratic Party of Socialists on Monday, state-television RTCG reported. “We need additional wisdom and responsibility.”

Except for a few short gaps, the 56-year-old leader has been either prime minister or president of the smallest former Yugoslav republic since 1991. His staunchly pro-western stance, which has included free-market reforms and last year’s entry into the North Atlantic Treaty Alliance has irked Moscow, which Djukanovic says is trying to destabilize both the Balkan states that are trying to join the EU and the bloc itself.

Montenegrin prosecutors have charged 14 people, including two opposition leaders and two Russian intelligence officers, for allegedly plotting the coup attempt. Often fragmented opposition has sought to unite behind a joint candidate, fielding former lawmaker and civil rights activists, Mladen Bojanic. The current president Filip Vujanovic, a Djukanovic ally, is to step down after serving two consecutive, five-year terms.

Djukanovic joined Yugoslavia’s Communist Party at 17, then rose through the ranks of the single-party system and shot to prominence in 1989 amid political turmoil spearheaded by Serbian strongman Slobodan Milosevic. He first became premier in 1991, Europe’s youngest government leader at the time. Djukanovic broke with Milosevic in 1996, and led Montenegro to independence in 2006, outmaneuvering opponents that accused him of corruption, power abuse and of betraying traditional allies Serbia and Russia.

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