Montenegro's long-ruling Djukanovic launches bid for third presidential term

FILE PHOTO: Montenegro's Djukanovic speaks in Podgorica

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Milo Djukanovic, Montenegro's incumbent president who has held high-ranking political posts in the Adriatic country for the last 30 years, launched his bid on Saturday to run for a third term in a presidential election next month.

The March 19 vote will be held as the country is gripped by a year-long political deadlock marked by no-confidence votes in two separate governments and a row between lawmakers and Djukanovic over appointing a new prime minister-designate.

Over the years, Montenegro has been divided between those who identify as Montenegrins and those who see themselves as Serbs and oppose the country's independence from a former union with neighbouring and much larger Serbia.

The office of president is largely ceremonial in Montenegro, but a Djukanovic victory could trigger an early parliamentary election after the presidential vote because he has so far rejected proposed candidates for the prime minister's job.

"I am entering the election race with the intention to win quickly and convincingly," Djukanovic, who heads the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), said on Saturday as he submitted his bid with electoral authorities.

"Montenegro is totally paralysed on its European path and this agony must be stopped as soon as possible," said Djukanovic, who led Montenegro to its independence from the Serbia-Montenegro state union in 2006, secured NATO membership and put it on the road towards joining the European Union.

Opponents accuse Djukanovic and the DPS of corruption, links to organised crime and of running the country of some 620,000 people as their personal fiefdom - charges Djukanovic and his party deny.

The state election commission has already approved two other presidential candidates - Andrija Mandic from the ethnic Serb party New Serb Democracy and Draginja Vuksanovic Stankovic of the Social Democratic Party.

(Reporting by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Helen Popper)