Montenegro veteran PM Djukanovic to run for presidency

Podgorica (Montenegro) (AFP) –


Montenegro's six-time prime minister Milo Djukanovic, who dominated politics in the tiny Balkan nation for decades before stepping down in 2016, announced his comeback Monday by saying he will run for president in next month's vote.

Pro-Western Djukanovic rose to prominence in the twilight years of communist Yugoslavia and served six terms as premier and once as president before quitting politics for a third time two years ago.

His resignation followed the narrowest-ever victory of his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) in a parliamentary vote marred by allegations of a failed coup attempt allegedly aimed at preventing Montenegro from joining NATO.

"This decision is the expression of my responsibility towards the legacy and needs of Montenegro's future development," Djukanovic, 56, told reporters Monday after the DPS' main board unanimously backed his candidacy for the April 15 vote.

His main opponent will be businessman Mladen Bojanic, supported by the opposition pro-Russian Democratic Front, Democrats of Montenegro and Citizen's movement URA.

Seen as a dynamic reformist by some and an authoritarian leader by others, Djukanovic led Montenegro's peaceful break-up from Serbia -- its often-troubled partner for around 90 years -- in 2006.

He encouraged a strong flow of Russian investment -- notably in real estate -- after independence, but he has since become more committed to closer ties with Western countries.

Montenegro, home to some 620,000 people, opened talks to join the European Union in 2012.

It became a NATO member five years later.