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Extraordinary elections in Budva, Montenegro, see a right-wing win

Image: Budva’s coastline (source: WikiMedia Commons

On Sunday May 26, extraordinary municipal elections took place in Budva, Montenegro. Budva is an important municipality due to being the country’s most visited tourist destination. It has a budget of 60 million euros. The current mayor of Budva, Milo Božović, is in custody for allegations of drug smuggling. The coalitions that were previously part of the former pro-Russian party Democratic Front achieved significant victories during the Sunday vote. Preliminary results show that the coalitions “For the Future of Budva” and “Budva Our City” won 9 seats each.
The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) gained 7 seats, followed by the Democrats with 4 seats. The Europe Now Movement gained 2 seats, while the United Reform Action (URA) and the coalition of the Social Democratic Party, Social Democrats and Liberal Party – led by Petar Odžić – gained 1 seat each.

The Montenegrin European Party and Civic Action failed to meet the electoral threshold for the Budva parliament, which consists of 33 council members.
In these elections, 19,034 citizens had the right to vote. The turnout was 58%, lower than the previous two election cycles in 2020 and 2022. Voters were able to cast their votes in 28 polling stations across the city.

“For the Future of Budva” and “Budva Our City”

The former Democratic Front (DF) faction, that was a right-wing populist and socially conservative political alliance, dissolved in 2023. Those who left this party participated in these elections in different coalitions, both for “For the Future of Budva” and “Budva Our City”.
The coalition “For the Future of Budva – Budva, an Open City” led by Mladen Mikijelj, consists of the New Serbian Democracy (NSD), Democratic People’s Party (DNP), Movement for Change (PzP), Socialist People’s Party (SNP), United Montenegro, True Montenegro, Free Montenegro, DEMOS and Workers’ Party. Mikiljelj presents the story – “The Budva that we will build is a city that is not captured by the interests of individuals, but is open to all who love Budva and find in it the warmth of a family home, and that the politics of ‘divide and rule’ will have no place here; we want to connect and build”. Mikiljelj’s former party colleague and now opponent, Nikola Jovanovic, leads the list of those who left the parties of the former DF, and propagate that Budva should be independent, and not be managed from the party headquarters in Podgorica. Jovanović’s list “Budva naš grad” is supported by people who remained close to the detained Milo Božović. Another peculiar fact of the elections is that the Europe Now party – that took a victory in nation-wide parliamentary elections in 2023 – ran with Predrag Zenović as number one in its list. Zenović is Montenegro’s chief EU negotiator. Analysts see this as harmful to Montenegro’s EU chances; “The right of Zenović to be actively involved in the election process is not disputed, but it is disputed that he is doing so from a demanding state position.”