Sunday, April 06, 2008
Montenegro Votes for President
06 April 2008 Podgorica -- Montenegro is holding its first Presidential election since becoming independent in May 2006.
Incumbent President Filip Vujanovic, of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists is widely tipped to win a new five-year term in office for the largely ceremonial position.
However he faces criticism from his rivals who accuse the party of suppressing the opposition and ruling virtually unchallenged for the past 20 years.
Montenegro's ties with Serbia, from which the country separated in 2006, are a key issue in the vote, especially in light of neighbouring Kosovo's February 17 declaration of independence from Belgrade. Read more at: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/9165/
The question has seen the growing popularity of Andrija Mandic, the Presidential candidate for the Serb List, who has taken a hardline stand against recognising Kosovo' independence and also wants Podgorica to rebuild closer ties with Belgrade.
"Whatever anyone says, Montenegro remains a Serbian state," argues Mandic who claims to represent all the ethnic Serbs who make up 30% of Montenegro's 650,000 people.
"Those presidential candidates who were against Montenegro's independence two years ago have no moral right to lead the country in the future," claims Vujanovic. "We won independence, now we have to start our fight for Montenegro in the European Union."
Since separating from Serbia, Montenegro has integrated further into the EU and at NATO's Bucharest Summit on Thursday, the country moved a step closer to membership of the alliance. Annual economic growth stands at about eight percent and foreign investment since 2006 is around €644 million, which has propelled tiny Montenegro to the top of Europe's per capita foreign investment ranking.
Vujanovic is hoping to use this to secure a fresh mandate.
However he, together with long time political ally, Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, face allegations of presiding over a regime ridden with corruption.
"Montenegro is an independent country, but it still needs to become a free and democratic state without its corrupt and smuggling-prone regime," claims Nebojsa Medojevic, the candidate for the technocrat Movement for Change, who is trailing third in the opinion polls.
Last month, Djukanovic was questioned by Italian Prosecutors over his role in cigarette smuggling in the 1990s. Read more at: http://balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/9025
Srdjan Milic, of the Socialist People's Party is the fourth candidate standing in Montenegro's Presidential election. Read Balkan Insight's profile of the four candidates here: http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/main/news/9160/
Polls open at 0800 CEST (0600 GMT) and close at 2100 CEST (1900 GMT) with preliminary projections released an hour later. Some 800 local and international officials are monitoring the ballot.
Who’s Who in the Montenegro Election
Since then the country has managed to build closer ties with the European Union and at the NATO Summit on Thursday, moved a step closer to membership of the alliance.
The country is seeing unprecedented economic growth, especially in tourism and real estate but many Montenegrins claim they have yet to see the benefits.
Around a third of Montenegro’s 650,000 people are ethnic Serbs who want to maintain close ties with Serbia.
Here’s a look at the four candidates standing in Montenegro’s election and their position on the key issues.
The incumbent, Filip Vujanovic, the ruling Democratic Party of Socialist, DPS, candidate, says he is convinced he will win as his opponents were those “who were against Montenegro’s independence” two years ago.
Vujanovic, who has been President since 2003, is still riding high on the wave of post-independence euphoria and the popularity of its architect, Prime Minister, Milo Djukanovic.
Vujanovic is hoping to use his record in overseeing Montengro’s rapidly-expanding economy and Euro-Atlantic integration to secure his reelection on Sunday.
Other presidential candidates accuse him of being nothing more than Djukanovic’s mouthpiece.
Andrija Mandic, is the candidate for the Serb List, the single strongest opposition force in Montenegro, and aims to represent all Serbs living in the country.
In favour of maintaining strong ties with Belgrade, Mandic has courted controversy by taking up dual Serbian citizenship – a move opposed by the ruling coalition, and calling on citizens not to recognise Montenegro’s new constitution because it renamed the national language from Serbian to Montenegrin.
Mandic has been most vocal in urging Podgorica not to recognise Kosovo’s unilateral declaration of independence from Serbia. His hardline stand has seen him push Nebojsa Medojevic into third place in opinion polls.
He also opposes Montenegro’s membership of NATO, insisting there must be a referendum on the issue.
Nebojsa Medojevic, is the candidate for the Movement for Change, a party with a market-orientated focus, aiming to reform the country and bringing it in line with ‘European standards’ and build closer ties with the European Union.
Medojevic has been highly critical of the ruling DPS, accusing Djukanovic and Vujanovic of stifling democracy in the young nation.
He is promising to clean up politics by tackling corruption and organised crime.
Srdjan Milic, the Socialist People’s Party candidate backs the country’s swift accession to the European Union and NATO.
Since Predrag Bulatovic resigned from the leadership of the party following its dismal performance in the September 2006 parliamentary election, Milic has overseen the party’s transformation into a European-style Social Democratic Party, concentrating on on social reform and welfare.
Posted by Conference Organizer at 11:47 AM
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The DPS candidate and incumbent President Filip Vujanovic, is set to sweep Sunday's vote but is feeling the pressure on the Kosovo question from Montenegro's ethnic Albanians who say they are not backing Vujanovic because of his reluctance to recognise Pristina's independence.
"If Filip Vujanovic doesn't win (the election) in Malesija, he won't win at the state level," warned Nikola Camaj, the speaker of the Malesija's parliament, a region near Albania, where most of Montenegro's ethnic Albanian population live.
Albanians make up about seven percent of Montenegro's population and with Mandic narrowing Vujanovic's lead, the DPS are worried about an ethnic Albanian boycott of their candidate.
Five out of the six ethnic Albanian parties in Montenegro say they are not backing Vujanovic.
The arrest of a group of ethnic Albanians on terrorist charges on September 9, 2006, a day before Montenegro's first post-independence elections has also left a bitter taste among Montenegro's Albanians.
The group of 14 men, who claim to have been tortured by Montenegrin police, are on trial for provoking inter-ethnic arrest.
For the record -- Ferhat Dinosha is the lone Albanian representaive that is backing Vujanovic/Dukanovic and the DPS.
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