Vujanović Claims Second Mandate and Reaffirms DPS’ Rule in Montenegro

, by Courtney Lobel, Vučić Ćetković

Vujanović Claims Second Mandate and Reaffirms DPS' Rule in Montenegro

Ever since Montenegro invoked its right under the Constitutional Charter of Serbia and Montenegro to hold the May 2006 referendum that resulted in their independence, the tiny country on the Adriatic has enjoyed strong growth. Annual economic growth hovers around six percent and, according to the Montenegrin Investment Promotion Agency, Montenegro ranks third in Europe in investment per capita after Estonia and the Czech Republic.

In light of this upward economic trend, the incumbent President Filip Vujanović chose a simple campaign slogan when Montenegro went to the polls for the first time since independence to appoint a President: “No dilemma!” To many observers of the election, his slogan offered to citizens the idea that his re-election is the obvious and natural choice for a Montenegro that, in his mind, is firmly on the right path.

The election, called by the Speaker of the National Assembly on 17th January 2008 and convened on April, 6th was monitored by the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and fielded Vujanović as the winner, having received 52.4% of the votes cast. In accordance with a compromise reached with the opposition, local elections in Herceg-Novi and Tivat (coastal towns) coincided with the national elections. Vujanović, leader of the Democratic Socialists Party was supported by DPS’ coalition partner, Social Democratic Party of Montenegro, and his victory was based upon a partial count of the ballot.

Despite the positive economic trend in the tiny Adriatic country under Vujanović’s Presidency, endemic corruption and political patronage are widely known to have run rampant throughout the 19 year continuous DPS rule. Although many possibilities were discussed and ideas proposed in an effort to rally the opposition around one candidate, the attempt ultimately failed. Consequently, all opposition groups nominated their own leaders as candidates, arguably paving the way for a Vujanović victory.

Clearly Vujanovic’s platform has convinced the majority of Montenegrins who prefer to forego broad sweeping political reform in favor of continued economic progress and closer ties with the EU.

One main contender was found in the Head of the Serb People’s Party, Andrija Mandić, who was nominated as the common candidate of the Serb List political alliance. This is the same Mandić who led February’s demonstrations in Podgorica, Montenegro’s capital, which highlighted the vehement objections of ethnic Serbs to Kosovo’s recent unilateral declaration of independence. His campaign, which ran under the slogan, “Only the Best can!” garnered 20% of the vote. The anti-corruption campaigner, Nebojša Medojević, from the Movement for Change came in an unremarkable third with 17.3%.

The Bosniak Party decided to sit out the election, just as the three Albanian minority parties did, choosing not to endorse any candidate. The People’s Party also decided unanimously that it wouldn’t participate in the election, but it supported the two opposition candidates that represent parties from the former pro-Serbian bloc.

The link between Montenegro and Serbia has been an important topic of the campaign. President Vujanović wanted to carefully manage the different sensibilities inside his country; he doesn’t recognise Kosovo’s independence and he is willing his country into European Union Member State status. Clearly his platform has convinced the majority of Montenegrins who prefer to forego, or at least stall, broad sweeping political reform in favour of continued economic progress and closer ties with the EU.

Image: Filip Vujanović after his victory, source: Flickr

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