Montenegro's parliament endorses new cabinet

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegro’s parliament endorsed on Monday a new cabinet led by a former head of the secret police who pledged to lead the country’s accession to NATO and European Union.

Dusko Markovic, 58, deputy leader of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is one of the most trusted allies of Milo Djukanovic, the party leader.

The DPS emerged as the single strongest party in Montenegro’s 81-seat parliament after an election on Oct. 16, but it lost its majority. To form the government it secured support of parties that represent national minorities.

Forty-two deputies of the ruling coalition voted for the new cabinet. Thirty-nine opposition deputies boycotted the session in a protest over election day arrest of a group suspected of having planned to kill Djukanovic.

The state prosecutor has accused Russian nationalists of being behind the group while opposition parties had said the suspected plot was fabricated and accused Djukanovic of using the security services to help extend his quarter century of dominance over Montenegro.

“The cabinet that you will vote for today will take us to NATO,” Markovic told the parliament when presenting his program.

Markovic pledged to cut an unemployment rate standing at 18 percent at the moment, to continue with big infrastructure projects and build new power production capacities.

His Finance Minister Darko Radunovic, former CEO of the Prva Banka bank, will have a difficult task to cap the rising debt now standing at 65 percent of national output.

The Adriatic republic of 620,000 people has strong economic and traditional ties with Russia, another predominantly Orthodox Christian country. But relations cooled in recent years especially after Montenegro introduced sanctions against Russia, embracing EU policies.

Reporting by Petar Komnenic; Writing by Ivana Sekularac