March 20, 2018 / 1:18 PM / 9 months ago

Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro's long-serving PM, to run for presidency

FILE PHOTO: President of a ruling Democratic Party of Socialist (DPS), former prime minister and president of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic applauds during a parliament discussion on NATO membership agreement in Cetinje, Montenegro, April 28, 2017 REUTERS/Stevo Vasiljevic

BELGRADE (Reuters) - Milo Djukanovic, who dominated politics in the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro as President and Prime Minister for decades, announced late on Monday he will run for another presidential term next month.

The 56-year-old Djukanovic, a former communist, rose to prominence in the late 1980s, shortly before the violent breakup of the former Yugoslavia in 1991. He served six terms as prime minister and one as president before taking the helm of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists in 2016.

“This decision is the expression of my responsibility to ... Montenegro’s future,” Djukanovic said after his party’s main board unanimously backed his candidacy.

In 2016, the DPS narrowly won a parliamentary vote marred by allegations of a Russia-backed coup which attempted to prevent Montenegro from joining NATO. Dusko Markovic, the former head of Montenegro’s security agency, replaced Djukanovic as Prime Minister.

In the vote on April 15, Djukanovic will face businessman Mladen Bojanic who enjoys the backing of the opposition Democratic Front which favors closer ties with Russia, as well as the Democrats of Montenegro and the Citizen’s Movement URA.

Djukanovic is the likely winner according to January polls which showed the three parties supporting opposition candidates had the backing of 37 percent of voters. Current Montenegro President Filip Vujanovic is Djukanovic’s long-time political ally.

Montenegro, an Adriatic state of around 620,000 people, opened EU membership talks in 2012 and joined NATO in 2017.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Ed Osmond

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