Montenegro’s President Milo Djukanovic issued a decree dissolving Parliament days before the presidential elections.
Thursday’s decision comes as a three-month legal deadline expires for the former senior diplomat and prime minister-designate Miodrag Lekic to form a government.
According to the country’s constitution, elections must be held one day after the parliament is dissolved. The president must schedule a new parliamentary vote 60 to 100 days after the decree is published.
Parliament was sacked before Montenegrins went to the polls on Sunday to elect a president. Djukanovic, who has held high-level political positions in Montenegro for the past 30 years, is one of seven candidates.
Political turmoil has worsened in Montenegro since the 2020 parliamentary elections, as Djukanovic’s Social Democratic Party suffered a historic defeat against a church-backed coalition.
Two governments have collapsed since then, most recently in August and persisting nonetheless, sparking a wave of protests and calls for early elections.
Although Montenegro’s president has a largely ceremonial role, analysts see Sunday’s vote as a potential turning point in the country’s political woes.
Djukanovic, the architect of Montenegro’s independence from Serbia in 2006, remains the favourite. However, he is a controversial figure who has been accused of corruption, links to organized crime and attacks on independent journalists – charges he denies.
At 61, he will have to face stiff competition, notably from Andrea Mandic, the pro-Russian candidate for the Democratic Front.
The other two main challengers are Yakov Milatović, a young economist from the increasingly popular Europe Now movement, and the leader of the centre-right Democrats.
If no candidate receives more than 50% of the vote, a second round will be held on April 2 with a probable outcome.
It has a population of 620 thousand people, a third of whom are Serbs, and it is a member of NATO and aspires to join the European Union.
Over the years, Montenegro has been divided between those who identify as Montenegrins and those who consider themselves Serbs and oppose the country’s independence from Serbia.