After having managed to peacefully survive the 1990’s wars that led to the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Montenegro’s politics and its society were determined by the relations with, and independence from Serbia. In 2006 a majority of 55.5 percent declared in a referendum to be in favour of independence, narrowly passing the official 55,5 percent threshold. Anno 2017 Montenegro is in the process of EU accession - talks have been opened on 26 out of 33 negotiation chapters and two of them already closed. On the one hand, the country has relatively good relations with other countries in South East Europe, is frontrunner in the region when it comes to LGBTI Rights, has appointed an independent special prosecutor to tackle organised crime and high level corruption, considerably improved the relations between civil society and the government, aligned its foreign policy with the EU and is close to becoming a NATO member. On the other hand, however, business tycoons are dominating the economy that mostly runs on remittances and tourism, major incidents around election day are the rule rather than the exception, and the country has never experienced a change of power at elections.
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- 644,578 million (World Bank 2016 est.)
- Governmental Type:
- Ruling Coalition:
- Democratic Party of Socialists, the Liberal Party and the Social Democratic Party
- Last Elections:
- 16 October 2016 (parliamentary elections)
- Next Elections:
- 2018 (presidential elections)
- Sister Parties:
- Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), the Liberal Party (LP), Social Democrats (SD, SDP split-off), Albanian coalition and Croatian Citizens’ Initiative
Montenegro is a candidate country for the EU and has opened twenty-four chapters in the EU negotiations, while two have already been closed. Montenegro’s future was further shaped by the NATO invite it received in December 2015. The invitation led to protests by pro-Serbian parties and their supporters. Further protests were fuelled by the opposition alliance Democratic Front (DF) who voiced accusations of corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud against Prime Minister Milo Djukovic (Democratic Party of Socialists; DPS). During the elections of 2016 several incidents occurred reflecting the choice between NATO and Europe or Russia on the other hand. In the end, a ‘choice for the West’ coalition was formed led by DPS, which got the majority of votes. Although divided, the opposition has become stronger due to the reforms that go along with the EU integration process.
After World War II Montenegro became one of the six equal republics of the Yugaslav federation. After the disintegration of Yugoslavia, Montenegro remained in a union with Serbia as the State Union of Serbia and Montenegro. On 21 May 2006 a referendum was held, where the majority of the Montenegrin population (55.5 percent) declared to be in favour of independence. With that the threshold of 55 percent as stippled by the EU was narrowly passed. Montenegro’s first parliamentary and presidential elections as an independent state as well as the parliamentary elections of October 2012 did not bring any big political changes.
Since 1998 SDP and DPS have ruled together. However, the coalition is becoming less stable. At the national level DPS blocked the adoption of a new electoral law. Failure to adopt this electoral law could lead to a serious political crisis. After the blockade, the main opposition party, Democratic Front Party, has left the parliament. They accused DPS for obstructing the Assembly and claimed that DPS needs to take responsibility for the political crisis.
The blockade of the DPS has deepened the distrust between the opposition and the government, which started on April 2013 with electoral fraud and misuse of state resources on the presidential elections, announced the Democratic Front. Next to the national level, friction at the local level was visible as well: during local elections in 2013 the SDP decided to work together with an opposition party, which is the first time since DPS and SDP rule together. This new alliance could cause friction within the national coalition. For the April 2014 local elections in the capital Podgorica SDP formed a pre-election coalition with the new opposition ‘Positive’ party.
Freedom of media continues to be a problem in Montenegro and in December 2015 the European Parliament’s Montenegro rapporteur condemned the attacks on activists and politicians by the media and urged in a resolution to continue OSCE-facilitated dialogue on improving ethical and professional standards in the media. The ruling coalition of the DPS, supported by the Social Democratic Party (SDP) and several ethnic parties, has been unstable due to a conflict between the DPS and SDP. After a split within SDP – party leadership contest resulted in establishment of a new party that decided to continue supporting the ruling DPS – Djukanovic’s position was weakened. In addition, street protests have pressured the ruling DPS (in power since 1991) to include a part of the opposition in a caretaker government.
The country has been immersed in a coup drama since the 16 October general elections when authorities arrested 20 people accused of planning armed attacks against government institutions. This group consisted of mostly Serb nationals, but also included two Russian citizens, Eduard Sirokov and Vladimir Popov, and two Montenegrin opposition leaders.
Prime Minister at that time Milo Djukanovic (Democratic Party of Socialists), whose party came out first in the election but without a parliamentary majority, had presented the vote as a chance for Montenegro’s 620,000 citizens to endorse his policy of joining NATO and the EU, instead of pursuing deeper ties with allies in Serbia and Russia.
Since then, tensions have built up, and the situation became even more tense after the nation’s special prosecutor lifted the parliamentary immunity of two leaders who are suspected of having participated in a failed coup. In February this year, riot police were stationed to restrain hundreds of protesters who gathered in front of the parliament in Podgorica to protest against the motion lifting the two leaders’ immunity. It is assumed by the government that the coup to attack Montenegro’s parliament and kill Djukanovic was directed by Russian intelligence officers in order to sabotage the country’s plan to join NATO.
Parliament, dominated by the Democratic Party of Socialists, lifted one of opposition leaders Medojevic‘s immunity on the request of the special prosecutor for organised crime, Milivoje Katnic. Katnic said police should take Medojevic in for questioning, after which a decision on his possible arrest would be made. Medojevic is known as one of the sharpest critics of the government and of the ruling party run by veteran leader Milo Djukanovic.
But the question remains whether this was a genuine coup attempt. On the one hand, it is claimed that it was a sinister effort to overturn a democratically elected administration and take over the country by force. On the other, critical analysts argue that it was a carefully choreographed event, designed to win sympathy for a controversial and allegedly corrupt ruling party that is in power since 1991 on the verge of decreasing public support.
It is believed by these critics that the government sought to manipulate the situation to its advantage. Although the indictment says Velimirović told authorities about the plot several days before the election, there was no mention of it in the media until election day itself, when the arrests of several alleged conspirators were announced. Internet communication services such as WhatsApp and Viber were cut off for hours during the day. All of these elements contributed to the sense that the country was in danger — a sense that may have persuaded some voters to rally behind the ruling party for the sake of stability.
After the presidential elections in April 2013, won narrowly by DPS candidate Filip Vujanović, allegations of misuse of public resources were ever louder. Under pressure from the opposition, the SDP, junior partner in the governing coalition, and Brussels, the process of so-called 'restore confidence in the electoral process' started. An inquiry team was founded in which all the parties were represented, in addition to the representatives from the NGO sector, while Brussels also provided with technical assistance.
The Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2013 states that pervasive corruption, marked by nepotism, political favouritism, and weak controls over conflicts of interest in all branches of the government is one of the biggest problems in Montenegro. In the Corruption Perceptions Index (CPI) 2016 of Transparency International, Montenegro scored 45, which is one point more than in 2013. Since 2013 it has moved from the 67th position to the 64th position (together with Oman, Senegal, South Africa and Suriname).
In 2008, Montenegro applied for EU membership. In December 2011, the Council launched the accession process with a view to opening negotiations in June 2012, which started at 29 June. Since its accession process the European Commission has presented a (progress) report for Montenegro each year. In the last report of 2016, Montenegro's first priority should be reforms concerning the rule of law ‘demonstrated by tangible results on fighting corruption and organised crime’, because it will also determine the pace of the of the negotiations. The EU also stressed improving the economy due to increasing public debt and strengthening the administrative capacity to ensure the application of the European acquis.
By 24 November 2016, out of 35 chapters were opened, with two (25: science and research and 26:education and culture) of them provisionally closed. In 2016 the chapters 11 (Agriculture and rural development), 12 (Food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy), 13 (Fisheries), and 19 (Social policy and employment) are opened.
For ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and their leader Milo Djukanovic, the EU accession could be less favourable. There will be more supervision on his work, powers will be transferred to the parliament and the rule of law will be strengthened. This will put pressure on the power basis of Djukanovic possibly resulting in charges against him, something we have seen happing in Croatia with former Prime Minister Ivo Sander. Moreover, the accession process gives other parties less of a reason to work together with the DPS: In 2012 the SDP was part of the Coalition for a European Montenegro led by Djukanović, instead of following an independent political course. In 2016, after a split within their party, the SDP left the ruling coalition and even announced a vote of no confidence. The split provided an opportunity to SDP to reform and modernise into a citizens’ party, transparent and open to outside influence and a vocal point for civil society and human rights activist. Furthermore, the party can engage in new partnerships with the progressive opposition that will have more room to manoeuvre as the EU accession negotiations move on.
Representation of women
Women remain significantly underrepresented in Montenegrin politics. In the presidential election of 2008 no female candidates competed. The 2012 parliamentary elections provided for an improvement in women election participation with a total of 264 women that stood as candidates, declared to be a significant increase from past elections. In 2016, 15 out of 81 seats in the parliament are held by women, which is two more than in 2012. This is the highest share of women in the history of this institution. However, Montenegro lags behind on other Western-Balkan countries.
The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of current Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic won the parliamentary elections in Montenegro on 16 October 2016 with 41 percent of the votes. After winning yet another election in October 2016, ‘father of the nation’ and long-time Prime Minister Milo Djukanović (Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS) resigned after having been in power since 1991. This is the third time Djukanovic has ‘left’ politics, although he always remained very influential and was widely believed to be pulling the strings from the backstage. During his breaks in power he remained leader of the ruling DPS and it is expected that he will continue to be the party leader in the years ahead. His confidant Duško Marović now formed a ruling coalition together with the SPD split-off Social Democrats (SD) and the national minority parties (Bosnian, Albanian and Croatian). With the 36 seats of the DPS, the 2 seats of the SD and 4 seats of the national minority parties the ruling coalition has a slight majority of 42 out of 81 seats. The voters turnout on 16 October was 71 percent despite the actively spread through the social media flashmob of ‘staying lazy’ on elections day.
|Party||% of the votes||Seats||Seats 2012|
|Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS)||41.41 %||36||33|
|Democratic Front (DF)||20.32 %||18||20|
|Ključ (Key) Coalition||11.05 %||9||9|
|Democratic Montenegro||10.01 %||8||0*|
|Social Democratic Party (SDP)||5.23 %||4||6|
|Social Democrats||3.26 %||2||0*|
|Bosniak Party||3.16 %||2||1|
|Positive Montenegro||1.32 %||0||7|
|Albanians Decisively||1.27 %||1||0|
|Albanian Coalition||0.89 %||0||1|
|Croatian Civic Initiative||0.47 %||1||0|
*These parties did not compete in the 2012 elections
In the 2013 presidential elections incumbent President Filip Vujanović (Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS) was challenged by the opposition leader Miodrag Lekić. Lekić ran as an independent candidate but was widely supported by the largest opposition party, the Democratic Front (DF). On 8 April the electoral commission announced that Vujanović had won the elections with a landslide victory of only 52.2 percent of the votes. Lekić gained 48.8 percent of the total votes. Representatives for Lekić’ campaign announced that they would not recognize the result, and demanded a recount of the votes.
Several protesters in Podgorica demanded from the parliament to annul the vote within ten days and would call for new elections. The protesters said they would not accept the alleged fraud, and carried banners with slogans like 'We defend our victory, we defend our Montenegro'.
The commission however said no major irregularities were reported during the elections, and added that voter turnout was 63.9 percent. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also said that the election "generally met OSCE requirements".
DPS’s coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), called upon its voters not to vote or to cast a blank vote as they consider the candidacy of Vujanović as unconstitutional. This would be his third term as president, while only two terms are allowed in the constitution. DPS on the other hand, backed by the Constitutional Court, claimed that Vujanović first term does not count as it was during the State Union with Serbia.
The presidential election is consistent with a slow but growing popularity of Miodrag Lekić and his Democratic Front. During the parliamentary elections of 2012 the Democratic Front gained 23.8 percent of the votes.
Social Democratic Parties
News and analysis
- BETA News Agency
- Civilitas Research
- Freedom house
- Institute for war and peace reporting
- Radio Free Europe – Radio Liberty
- Transitions Online
- BBC country profile
- CIA world factbook
- United Nations – common country assessment
- US Department of State
- European Commission Serbia and Montenegro - Stabilisation and Association Report 2004
- European Union’s external relations with Serbia and Montenegro
- Commission Report 2012