Montenegro ‘Snap Elections’ Bring EU Question

Sunday was poised to be an auspicious day in the Balkan nation of Montenegro as it conducted snap parliamentary elections. An election outcome may be the cornerstone to settling political turmoil and mapping the trajectory toward potential European Union (EU) membership.

Over half a million Montenegrin citizens were responsible for selecting their future lawmakers among 15 political parties and coalitions. The ideological range of these political groups was broad, stretching from the stalwart pro-Western to those advocating closer ties with Serbia and Russia.

Notably, these elections showcased a shift in national priorities. The people focused primarily on improving living standards and bolstering the economy. As Tanja Bojovic, a 38-year-old voter, said, “Finally, we are deciding on the quality of life, rather than on the East or West.”

The elections were a significant departure from the past in another respect. The name Milo Djukanovic was absent from the ballot for the first time in over three decades. Djukanovic, who led Montenegro to independence from Serbia and to NATO membership, lost a presidential election earlier this year.

Forecasts suggested the newcomer to the political stage, Europe Now, would likely secure the most votes. However, with a fractured electoral landscape, the centrist movement may need to muster more seats in the 81-seat parliament to commandeer a government independently.

President Jakov Milatovic, a member of Europe Now, expressed his hopes for a new political reality in Montenegro. However, Ana Nenezic, a political analyst, suggested these hopes might be premature, stating, “I will be really surprised if we get a politically stable government.”

Despite the previous government’s failure to maintain order and the resulting political gridlock, Montenegro still holds promise for its people and its allies. It has been perceived as the front-runner among Western Balkan nations to join the EU, a path its citizens seem eager to tread.

While the outcome of these elections hangs in the balance, the impact on Montenegro’s future is not to be underestimated. As former finance minister and Europe Now’s leader, Milojko Spajic, observed, “The parliamentary vote will shape life over the next four years.”

The stakes for Montenegro are high. While the country has managed to maintain an independent stance, joining EU sanctions against Russia after it invaded Ukraine last year, the political division within the country remains. This division primarily stems from contrasting identities — those identifying as Montenegrins and those who see themselves as Serbs.