Thousands march in Montenegro capital to demand president resign

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Thousands marched through Montenegro’s capital Podgorica on Saturday, the fifth such rally in two months, to demand the resignation of President Milo Djukanovic and his government over allegations of abuse of office, graft and cronyism.

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Crowds of protesters led by civic and student activists walked through the center of the city chanting “Milo thief” and “We are the state.”

The protests started after Dusko Knezevic, a businessman and a former ally of Djukanovic, accused the country’s long-serving president and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of abuse of office and murky financial deals.

Both Djukanovic and the DPS have denied the allegations but have said the protests are legitimate unless they turn violent.

Djukanovic, 57, has ruled the tiny Adriatic country for three decades, serving either as prime minister or president. The country, with a population of only 650,000, is a NATO member and a candidate for European Union membership.

“We want changes and after 30 years, I think that every citizen understands ... that the last dictator must leave,” said protester Ana Vujosevic, 45, from Podgorica.

Montenegrin prosecutors accused Knezevic of fraud and money laundering and issued an international arrest for the fugitive banker who fled to Britain.

Knezevic has said he will produce more evidence about alleged high-level corruption by Djukanovic and his allies.

Before it joins the EU, Montenegro must first root out organized crime, corruption, nepotism, bureaucracy and red tape.

Montenegrin protesters said they wanted opposition parties to stay away from the rallies, said Dzemal Perovic, a civic activist and a protest leader, citing what he called their frequent bickering and what he described as the misgivings of people about the opposition.

Reporting by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by William Maclean