By BosNewsLife News Center with BosNewsLife’s Stefan J. Bos
PODGORICA/BUDAPEST (BosNewsLife)– First results show Montenegro’s ruling coalition has won most votes in Sunday’s parliamentary election, despite concerns about the economy and reported widespread corruption in the former Yugoslav republic.
The Center for Monitoring said the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists and its allies, led by the tiny nation’s powerful ruler, Milo Djukanovic, won 39 of the parliament’s 81 seats.
With expected support from deputies of ethnic minorities, his party will be able to return to power.
The Democratic Front, the main opposition bloc, took only 20 seats, followed by the pro-Serb Socialist People’s Party with nine seats.
The opposition failed to capitalize on the economic downturn that followed the boom since Montenegro broke away from Serbia in 2006. Unemployment currently stands at a staggering 12 percent.
Even Djukanovic seemed surprised about his victory, saying his government is “a rare one in Europe as it maintained confidence of voters in such difficult times of crisis.”
Critics claim the long-time 50-year-old politician wants to become again prime minister to avoid prosecution for organized crime.
Djukanovic was even investigated by Italian prosecutors over alleged involvement in a multimillion-dollar cigarette smuggling operation, when an international embargo was imposed on Serb-led Yugoslavia during the wars of the 1990s.
He has denied wrongdoing.
The Socialist leader has made clear that his next government wants to continue to negotiate about membership of the European Union. On the eve of Montenegro’s ballot, European Parliament President Martin Schulz said EU expansion should continue.
“The necessary reforms, the debate about the future of the EU, the debate about the economically very difficult situation and the necessary steps to be undertaken by the EU to come out of the crisis can not be an obstacle for further enlargement,” he stressed.
Montenegro’s Parliament President Ranko Krivokapic, an ally of the current government, has welcomed that assessment. “This type of message is much bigger than our size,” he said. “Montenegro took a flame in the European integration in the Balkans and in the same time what is extremely important is that Montenegro is the hart of the integration on a new base.”
Yet Montenegro can expect tough EU investigations over alleged corruption and organized crime. That’s not all. More reforms are required as the nation of just 650,000 people also seeks membership of the NATO military alliance.
(BosNewsLife NEWS WATCH is a regular look at general key news developments in especially, but not limited to, (former) Communist nations and autocratic states impacting the Church and/or compassionate professionals).