How Alliance with Russia's sympathisers divided Montenegro's government

Tuesday, 5 March 2024

The ruling Montenegrin party Europe Now Movement (Pokret Evropa sad, PES) has gone through a split.

The PES deputy head, and the country's president, Jakov Milatović, has resigned as vice president of the Europe Now Movement, quitting other party posts as well.

It is highly likely that sympathies towards pro-Serb and pro-Russian movements have led to the split.

Read more about the consequence of this crisis in the article by Natalia Ishchenko, the editor of Balkan Observer – Montenegrin split: how a conflict in ruling party gives a chance to Russia's friends.

In 2022, now President Jakov Milatović and Prime Minister Milojko Spajić, newcomers to Montenegrin politics, founded the Europe Now Movement.

The split in PES occurred only twenty months after its creation and did not come as a surprise to experts, as well as ordinary Montenegrins.

The new political project was extremely successful at the very beginning. In the spring of 2023, Milatović won the presidential elections, and in the summer, the Europe Now Movement won first place in the snap parliamentary elections.

But the two PES founders were already not on the best terms before the 2023 presidential elections.

The thing is, Spajić was supposed to run from the young and promising Movement, but it turned out suddenly that he holds the passport of Serbia. As a result, the party had to urgently find a new candidate.

It is claimed that Spajić did not like this whole story, and relations between the Europe Now Movement leaders became very tense since then.

The conflict further escalated after winning the parliamentary elections. As it turned out, the PES founders had different views on forming a government coalition.

According to the media, Milatović insisted on including political forces from the radically pro-Serb, even more – pro-Russian camp (referring to representatives of the For the Future of Montenegro coalition, ZBCG) in the parliamentary majority.

Instead, Spajić allegedly opposed this, advocating for the possibility of forming a coalition with centrists from the civil movement URA of former Prime Minister Dritan Abazović or even with certain pro-Western allies, yet controversial former president Milo Đukanović and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).

Spajić eventually became the prime minister, but at the cost of forming a coalition with notorious pro-Russian politicians.

Since then, as claimed, the president and the prime minister have completely ceased any communication that was not necessary for them to perform their duties.

What prompted the current, final separation of PES founders, even in Montenegro, is not known for sure.

President Milatović hinted that the reason was the strengthening influence within the party of "people who were not with us from the very beginning and who were particularly close to the previous regime."

Thus, the head of state confirmed rumours that some powerful groups within the party do not like the coalition with radically Serbian sympathisers, who side with Russia. So much so that even a potential alliance with the "predecessors" looks less evil to them.

Milatović's resignation is seen as a signal of the creation of a new party loyal to the head of state within PES parts.

The first signs of this process are already noticeable.

Will the two political forces, which could potentially become the main competitors, be fundamentally different? It is believed that Milatović' is a creature of Serbian President Aleksandar Vučić, while Spajić is increasingly oriented towards Western partners, for whom such cooperation is crossing red lines.

Another political crisis in Montenegro, obviously, creates a window of opportunity for the Russian Federation.

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