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Political Situation in Montenegro (2/2)

Reading Time: 4 minutes

By Miloš Milojević.
Read part 1 here.

Parliamentary election in Montenegro was already finished when polls closed on Sunday evening, October 16. Preliminary results which were soon published showed mostly what everybody expected — Democratic Party of Socialists won majority of votes (41,42%) while all major opposition parties won similar number of votes – Democratic Front led by Andrija Mandić got 20,27%, coalition Ključ led by moderate Miodrag Lekić got 11,06%, Democratic Montenegro led by Aleksa Bečić got 9,99%, Social Democratic Party of Ranko Krivokapić, hardcore Montenegrin nationalist and former close associate of Milo Đukanović, got 5,23% and Social-Democrats 3,26%. Except them some seats in assembly go to minorities: Bosniaks, Albanians and Croats.

When we convert those results from polls into assembly seats it is clear that the specific political crisis in Montenegro is far from resolution. Also, it is clear that different post-electoral coalitions are possible. Namely, Đukanović’s party which had majority in previous assembly will have 36 of 81 seats and it will not be able to create a new government. However, Milo Đukanović have proclaimed victory soon after first results from polls and that creation of new government is secured. There are speculations in some medias that new candidate for Prime Minister is Duško Marković, high party official and vice president of Montenegro’s previous government. It is interesting that soon after midnight on Monday opposition leader Andrija Mandić also proclaimed victory because the opposition together has 41 of 81 seats. Strictly arithmetically speaking it is true but we must take into account that opposition in Montenegro isn’t monolithic and that there are deep disagreements on major issues including question on strategic orientation of state’s foreign policy.

When we have a look at the results from polls – percentages of votes and seats in the assembly – it seems that election in Montenegro was usual, mostly predictable and nothing more than a dull political process. It is far from truth. The situation is not so simple when we look at a wider context. One data which attracts attention is a relatively high turnout – more than 70% of registered voters. First comments speculate that this trend gave some advantage to opposition. But at the end of the day it was clear that results from polls are in accordance with earlier foresights without big changes in comparison with previous election. It seems that Montenegrin voters simply like to vote.

If we put aside results and possible post-electoral combinations, we have to say the process was marked with many incidents which made questionable the legitimacy of the voting procedure. Usual accusations include assertions from both sides that activists of respectively the ruling party and the opposition have bribed voters to vote for them at the polls. This accusation comes back after every election and they are very probably well founded actually. In small town of Rožaje, with Muslim majority, there were some clashes at the voting polls. However, this incident is also not particularly strange in context of local political circumstances.

Meanwhile, one much larger incident attracts big public attention. Montenegrin police have arrested twenty Serbian citizens. Montenegrin government has accused those people that they had planned some terrorist attacks. The investigation and persecution against them is still ongoing and it is very questionable what will be the epilogue of this affair. What do we know about all of this? On Sunday, early afternoon, director of Montenegrin police Slavko Stojanović has announced that twenty citizens of Republic of Serbia has been arrested and accused of terrorism. According to this source they had planned to induce violence after election and then to kidnap Montenegrin Prime Minister.

Among them was Bratislav Dikić, former commandant of Gendarmerie, Serbian police force specialized in anti-terrorist actions which is known as a respectable armed formation in the Balkans. Dikić is a very controversial figure. Medias have connected him with corruption and some criminal activities and there are strong evidence that he and his unit forced Serbs to participate in election organized by government of Priština (so called Republic of Kosovo). Dikić’s reputation and more broadly reputation of Gendarmerie were severely damaged among Serbian right-wing public and he was marked as confident man of Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić, capable to execute such operations.

This very strange circumstance was fertile ground for speculations about real character of allegedly planned terrorists attacks. Pro-Đukanović biased medias have written about planned coup d’état. Informer, Montenegrin newspaper and spin-off of infamous Belgrade’s tabloid, have published that behind these operation stands Nebojša Medojević, one of the leaders of the opposition. Unofficially, some medias and liberal politicians from Belgrade indicated – without any evidence – that this was a special operation organized by Russian intelligence services alongside with Montenegrin opposition and with the silent acceptance of the Serbian government.

Meanwhile opposition have asserted this was a false flag operation of fear mongering with intention to distract electoral process and strengthen Đukanović’s political positions in the last moment. The closeness of Belgrade and Podgorica regimes and Dikić’s earlier involvement in similar operations gives some weight to this hypothesis. One of the members of Democratic front Marko Milačić have published that so called terrorists got arrested without the use of any handcuff. According to his words this indicates that whole affair is just a false flag operation –farce carried out as strange kind of political marketing. If we put aside still unknown characters of this event, it is almost certain that it had helped Democratic Party of Socialists to gain several additional percentages of votes and strengthened its political position. Opposition tried to use this situation to question legitimacy of results from polls because election carried out in same day when the group tried to execute a coup d’état. Will this movement of opposition leaders develop a further political crisis? This is still highly questionable. One of the opposition leaders Nebojša Medojević has briefly commented on his Twitter account that opposition parties still negotiate about common position.

If opposition accepts results from the polls and with usual post-electoral deals it is almost certain that there will not be some major change in Montenegrin politics. Daniel Server, professor at John Hopkins University, commented with some kind of excitement that these election is an indicator of a strong support for Euro-Atlantic orientation of Montenegrin government. Russia lost – has concluded Server in a spirit of Cold War rhetoric of American hawks. Actually, on a symbolic level Server is probably telling the truth – appropriation of Montenegrin political elites to lead country into NATO will secure its political survival and for their Western protectors it will give some kind of symbolic even if not strategic compensation.

For both partners it is not a bad deal. The collateral damage – democratic order and chance to overthrown a semi-criminal post communist regime – for aforementioned Western states is not of particular interest. Morality of the Montenegrin election is probably not that important in their eyes. The exponents of liberal political elite from Belgrade hurried up to congratulate victory of Milo Đukanović after the election. Seen in a broader context it is clear that this alliance of elites share just one fundamental value – unquestionable loyalty to Euro-Atlantic order.