By PREDRAG MILIC, Associated Press

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Montenegro’s pro-Serb government is on the brink of collapse as its prime minister warned of the possibility of a longtime ruling pro-Western party returning to power.

Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic said on Twitter that plans by his ruling coalition partners to install a new minority government with the backing of the opposition Democratic Party of Socialists would restore the party’s influence in Montenegro less than two years after he was ousted in an election.

DPS chairman Milo Djukanovic ruled Montenegro for nearly three decades before being replaced in the August 2020 vote by the ideologically mixed Krivokapic coalition, which includes pro-Serb and pro-Russian groups as well as smaller parties.

Djukanovic led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and challenged Russia for NATO membership in 2017, but his government’s popularity has fallen over time due to corruption allegations.

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Krivokapic warned his coalition partners that if his government failed, “the concentration of political power would pass into the hands of the defeated DPS and its president.”

Krivokapic’s government in recent months has plunged into a political crisis. He is heading for a showdown in parliament this week when lawmakers decide whether to back his bid for a snap election or overthrow his government with a no-confidence motion.

A junior government partner, United Reform Action, has proposed that a minority government replace the current one to advance Montenegro’s stalled EU bid.

“I call on those who accuse me of defending my own position to return their mandates to the citizens and verify the legitimacy of their new political platform in early legislative elections,” Krivokapic said in his Twitter post.

Montenegro – a Balkan nation of 620,000 people – remains deeply divided between pro-Serbian and pro-Western supporters. Krivokapic’s government came to power after weeks of protests led by the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro.

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