Montenegro chose NATO in the recent parliamentary elections

Thu 20 Oct 2016

Montenegro chose NATO in the recent parliamentary elections

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.

“Coup attempt” and opposition’s rejection

On 15 October 20 Serbian citizens, suspected of planning terrorist acts against Djukanovic and his supporters and organizing a coup, were detained by Montenegrin police, which kept them under surveillance for already some time. Among the 20 Serbs was a former commander of Serbia's special police forces. The leader of the conspirators is linked to a radical nationalists pro-Russian movement Zavetnici. The prosecutor's office said the group planned to attack people who gathered in front of the parliament when the vote results were proclaimed, then storm the building and declare the victory "of certain parties."

In response to these arrests four opposition parties didn’t recognize election results and blamed DPS for using arrests as part of its election campaign and intimidating the voters. Opposition Democratic Front leader Nebojsa Medojevic claimed that 2,500 opposition supporters were questioned by police "just because they protested against Djukanovic." Opposition’s rejection of the elections outcome might result in a boycott of parliament’s work and political crisis in Montenegro. Opposition parties might be aiming at early elections and sabotaging NATO membership.

Furthermore, opposition politicians accused Montenegrin officials of interference with the election process for blocking WhatsApp and Viber messaging services on elections day. The latter justified it as an effort to prevent “unlawful marketing” during the elections.

"Blocking such apps is unthinkable in any normal country," said opposition SDP leader Ranko Krivokapic, who previously monitored voting for the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe. "I have never heard of that happening anywhere ever in an election."

International observers

OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission (EOM) characterized the elections as competitive and with respect to fundamental freedoms. Nevertheless, the report condemned blocking WhatsApp and Viber. European parliamentarian Marietje Schaake said that such measures "must not be used to silence opposition or to limit the freedom of assembly or speech. It is crucial that the EU looks into the details of what took place, and ensures accountability."

Preliminary OSCE report mentioned a lack of distinct policy alternatives in rival’s programs, except for geopolitical orientation. Several previous OSCE recommendations remain unaddressed, such as the right to run independently, the residency requirement for the right to vote and stand as a candidate. Overall Montenegrin electoral legislation remains ambiguous. EOM expressed support for the electronic voter identification system, which was introduced for the first time, as it provides safeguards against multiple voting.


Sources: OSW ABCNews Reuters OSCE

Picture: Roberto Maldeno