Montenegro’s politics and society has long been divided over the question whether the country should stay in one state with Serbia or not. In 2006 the majority of the Montenegrin population (55,5%) declared in a referendum to be in favour of independence. With that the threshold of 55% 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. Still, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democratic Party (SDP) are the major forces in the ruling European Montenegro coalition (along with the Liberal Party). Prime Minister pledged to pay special attention to the fight against the corruption and organized crime. 29 June 2012 marked a historic day for Montenegro as the EU officially opened accession negotiations. The negotiations are expected to be tough.
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- 622,388 (World Bank 2015 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:
- Social Democratic Party (SDP,) Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS)
Montenegro is a candidate country for the EU and has opened twenty-two chapters in the EU negotiations, while two have 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 fueled 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). 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 including a part of the opposition in a caretaker government. In 2016 parliamentary elections DPS got the majority of votes, 41%. 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, were the majority of the Montenegrin population (55,5%) declared to be in favour of independence. With that the threshold of 55% 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 is 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 has formed a pre-election coalition with the new opposition ‘Positive’ party.
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, 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 favoritism, and weak controls over conflicts of interest in all branches of the government is one of the biggest problems in Montenegro. According to the Transparency International report on the perception of corruption, Montenegro stands at the 67th position in 2013 with the corruption perception index of 44. This is an improvement over last year, when Montenegro was ranked 75th, with the corruption perception index of 41. Although there are improvements, corruption stays an important issue in national politics.
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 the 29th. In October 2012, the European Commission has presented a Progress Report for Montenegro 2012. The European Commission concluded that the country has made further progress in establishing a functioning market economy, has improved its ability to take on the obligations of EU membership, and continues to sufficiently meet the political criteria for EU membership.
The first chapters that opened were 23 (judiciary and fundamental rights) and 24 (justice, freedom and security). Montenegro adopted Action Plans for both. Progress on these two chapters will determine the pace of the negotiation process as a whole. Currently seven chapters are opened, two of them: 25 (science and research) and 26 (education and culture) have been provisionally closed. In 2014 Montenegro is expected to focus on addressing the Opening Benchmarks set in chapters like competition policy, agriculture and rural development, food safety, veterinary and phytosanitary policy, and environment. These Opening Benchmarks include elements such as the elaboration of strategies and action plans, or legislative alignment.
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.
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 stood as candidates, declared to be a significant increase from past elections. Currently there are 13 out of 81 female parliamentarians.
Parliamentary elections 2016
The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of the current Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic won the parliamentary elections in Montenegro on 16 October. DPS has been in power since 1991 and this time received 41% of the votes. Djukanovic labeled these elections as a choice between NATO and Russia. Out of 81 seats in the parliament DPS will now receive 36. The party of Social Democrats of Montenegro (SD), which has close ties with DPS, won two seats. The opposition parties have 39 seats in total and might try to form an anti-coalition. In particular, the pro-Serb and pro-Russian Democratic Front coalition (DF) won 18 seats, the Grand Kljuc Coalition has 9 seats, the centre-left Democratic Montenegro got 8 seats and Social Democratic Party (SDP) gained four seats. National minority parties, Bosnian, Albanian and Croatian, also have four seats. The recent election results are weaker for DPS this time and it is expected to form a coalition with SD and national minorities. Coalition negotiations will be decisive for the future course of Montenegro: whether it will move closer to the West or turn back to its traditional partners Serbia and Russia. The voters turnout on 16 October was 71% despite the actively spread through the social media flashmob of ‘staying lazy’ on elections day.
Presidential elections 2013
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 April 8, the electoral commission announced that Vujanović had won the elections with a landslide victory of only 52.2% of the votes. Lekić gained 48.8% 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 that 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%. The Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe also said that the election ‘generally met OSCE requirements.’
DPS’s coalition partner, Social Democratic Party (SDP), called upon their 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 claims 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% 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
- UN International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia
- War Crimes Tribunal Watch
- Institute for War and Peace Reporting on the Tribunal