In order to maintain his position and succeed in upcoming elections, the new president-elect must focus on improving his party’s capacities. This involves absorbing pressure and utilising his technical expertise to build the required infrastructure
The closest presidential elections in Montenegro since 1997 have given the country the promise of bridging divides and reshaping the country’s political culture. Following a period of political and institutional instability, the first of the two 2023 elections showed the willingness of the Montenegrin electorate to move on from Đukanović. The now-outgoing president could not replicate the first-round results and lost comfortably to a unified opposition. The second-round defeat comes at the expense of a newcomer. “Europe Now!” managed to create a strong base going into the first round and to further strengthen its position going into the second round by garnering the support of Đukanović’s opponents. The stark contrasts in the candidates’ expectations for the country’s direction are summed up in their discourse ahead of the second round. While Đukanović sounded somewhat unwilling to change or seek compromises by stressing the importance of continuance, president-elect Milatović underscored the need for change and dialogue, resulting in broader support in the second round.
Strong political party capacities are crucial for building strong state institutional capacities, which can resist political polarisation and restore trust in democratic institutions
It was the third major defeat of the DPS since 2020, following the parliamentary elections and the loss of Podgorica. Domestically, it leaves the country in uncharted territory, but with sufficient experiences from the region. Some similarities can be noted with North Macedonia’s case when VMRO-DPMNE lost all significant positions over the course of just a few years. What should be avoided is a lack of investment in building institutional capacities, which would ensure that the country’s progress is short-lived. What differentiates it from the Macedonian case is the profile of the newcomers. Here we see more remarkable similarities with Bulgaria’s brief government of “We Continue the Change”. Two foreign-educated economists founded a party and quickly won important elections against well-established and long-serving politicians. What the new president-elect can learn from is the need to create party capacities that are capable of absorbing pressure and translating technical expertise into the building of infrastructure to maintain its position and channel that into the upcoming elections. Building strong party capacities is necessary to shape strong state institutional capacities that can soak up the intense politically polarising pressure and re-establish trust in the democratic abilities of institutions. These steps are essential to overcome the profound political instability and emerge from the institutional and constitutional crises.