Milo Djukanovic, who dominated politics in the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro as President and Prime Minister for decades, announced late on Monday he will run for another presidential term next month.
According to sources, Djukanovic's nomination for the April 15 election was announced after a meeting of the Democratic Party of Socialists. The vote could be crucial in determining whether Montenegro remains on a Western course headed toward European Union membership.
The 56-year-old Djukanovic became prominent in the late 1980s, shortly before the breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. He served six terms as prime minister and one as president before taking the helm of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists in 2016.
"This decision is the expression of my responsibility to ... Montenegro's future," Djukanovic said after his party's main board unanimously backed his candidacy.
In the vote, Djukanovic will face businessman Mladen Bojanic who enjoys the backing of the opposition Democratic Front which favors closer ties with Russia, as well as the Democrats of Montenegro and the Citizen's Movement URA.
Montenegro, an Adriatic state of around 620,000 people, opened EU membership talks in 2012 and joined NATO in 2017.
In October 2017, police arrested 20 Serbs – one of them a retired police commander – during the country's parliamentary elections, and accused them of planning armed attacks against state institutions.
Before the elections, Djukanovic claimed Moscow was financing the opposition to halt the country’s joining NATO. Local opposition parties – many of them pro-NATO – repeatedly denied the allegations, with some even saying the entire plot was fabricated to ensure Djukanovic’s tighter grip on power.
Back then, a spokesman for the Russian president, Vladimir, Putin, dismissed the allegations. “These (are) absurd accusations … We do not interfere in the internal affairs of other countries, including Montenegro,” Dmitry Peskov said on Monday.