By News Front
Upcoming parliamentary elections in Montenegro have been called fateful as far as the eye can see: both within the country and region and by foreign experts. Citizens won’t simply choose between three forces and leading political coalitions, but also will determine the course of the country onwards.
At that moment, the loud phrase that people will choose “between two Montenegros” on Sunday are not just new pathetic lows. The decisions on entering into the EU and NATO would be taken by a new government. The question “how that decision would be reached” deserves to be asked: whether it would happen within the walls of the Parliament or in a referendum, called for by the opposition. In fact, it’s more than appropriate to demand that namely the people should make a historic decision. Ministers and MPs come and go, while joining NATO is a step that will determine the state’s direction of development for many years, for generations to come.
17 parties and 1,129 candidates claim the seats of the small Montenegrin Parliament (the entire number – 81). It is a colossal figure for a country where the number of voters is only 529,000 people, which, unfortunately, indicates not high politicking but about the division of votes, critical for the electoral process.
“Even for the 450 seats in parliament, this is a colossal figure. But for a small Montenegrin Parliament it’s a scatteration of the electoral vote, – Ph.D. in Political Science, Professor Elena Ponomareva says about current situation: “Parties that have administrative resources win in such situations, of course. Surely, it’s Djukanovic’s party, who also has a coalition of parties stand for him”.
During the entire election campaign, Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists and its satellites have focused on the “European path” of Montenegro, as well as the potential accession into the EU and NATO. Moreover, the pro-Western rhetoric that existed previously turned into aggressive anti-Russian statements being broadcasted by the state-run and pro-government Montenegrin media.
Djukanovic personally accused the oppositional Democratic Front of getting funds from Moscow, and during the final meeting with supporters on Friday, before the pre-election silence, said:
“The DPS will win the election, where it will be decided whether Montenegro would be EU/NATO member or a Russian colony”.
To intimidate the population with the mythical Russian threat is generally accepted in the countries that have to justify the “European choice”. It was seen in the Baltic States, Poland, even in Sweden and Finland on the issue of joining NATO in addition to Ukraine which is breaking all records in this respect. But it’s necessary to take into account mentality of the Serbs and Montenegrins. Eternal Russian allies, bearing the love for the eastern “big brother” in the deep roots of national identity, are a sophisticated audience for campaigning in favor of NATO through the horrors about Moscow.
Another question: what is the ratio of real citizens’ support for the citizens of political parties with an expected outcome of the election? More particularly, how will administrative resources, manipulation, provocations, and other attributes of the electoral process in the small Balkan country work this time?
“The disappointment of the Serbs in Montenegro due to the lack of support from official Belgrade, Western pressure, use of the administrative resource by the Montenegrin leadership as well as the difficult economic and social situation has led to the fact that representatives of the pro-Western elite were victorious in all recent elections”, historian, senior researcher at the Department of History of the Slavic peoples of Southeast Europe in the modern period, Petr Iskenderov assesses the situation in Montenegro.
“There’re several reasons why Djukanovic has remained in power so long,” said journalist and activist, coordinator of the “No to War – No to NATO” movement, Igor Damjanovic. “Firstly, it is the support of the Western powers. Then, 10-15% of the population works in the state apparatus. Those are votes of people whose existence depends entirely on Djukanovic’s regime. And the third reason is the national minorities in Montenegro, which make up 25-30% of the voters, who have always supported Djukanovic. Plus, you can add 10-15% that he always steals during elections”.
The particular attention on the Prime Minister is not quite coincidental. He has remained in power for 27 years – almost thrice as long as an independent Montenegro has existed for! In different periods of the political career, this person managed to be both a communist and a Serbian nationalist, demonstrating unflattering relation to the current “most partners” of NATO – Croatians. Now he is a Western-style politician who frightens his population with Russia, once so eager he used its support, by the way.
“When being a young Russian MP, I managed to support him during first presidential elections. And, of course, I had hoped that he will lead Montenegro on strengthening Slavic unity and brotherhood, not only with Serbia, but with Russia as well,” says Russian politician and Dr. Sergei Baburin. “Unfortunately, this did not happen. Once we had a serious long talk on this issue. Back then he had already headed the government but still remained the leader of the state focused on”.
Djukanovic’s inability to negotiate and lack of commitment internationally is compounded by the fact that he is not an independent political figure. A huge amount of compromising information was stored during his reign and that’s why he needs to carry out clear conditions in order to save power and immunity.
The German media published an investigation on cigarettes smuggling tied to the banned in Russia terrorist group “Islamic state” via the port of Bar. In Italy two criminal cases are filed against him, however they still remain a shelved affair.
“There is a number of criminal cases against him: two from the General Prosecutor’s Office of Naples, one from the General Prosecutor’s Office of Bari,” explained the Italian ex-MEP, journalist Giulietto Chiesa. “Milo Djukanovic is on the first place in every case. He has cigarette smuggling, drug trafficking and arms smuggling, including to the Middle East. This is actually the leader of a criminal gang, who has headed Montenegro for more than 25 years”.
Sympathy to Djukanovic is thin on the ground in Europe. Mrs. Merkel has never met him, and here it is no coincidence. And everyone knows about Gemany’s importance in the EU. The same situation is with France and Italy where no one wants to shake his hand. If Djukanovic will lose, the EU would be glad about this fact. On the contrary with the US.
The establishment of Montenegro as an independent from Serbia state is a very controversial historical event. It is difficult to explain in terms of national prerequisites that had already destroyed Yugoslavia. Both politically, and economically, the state union of Serbia and Montenegro was a viable form.
The separation of Montenegro happened in 2006 by the referendum results, which of course is very suspicious. Buses with “voters” from Kosovo, major ballot-rigging – these were the impressions of such an important referendum.
“Western establishment does not want to see not a single powerful state in the Balkans. The Balkans should be easily manageable, subjugate. The process of division of the “third Yugoslavia” (Serbia and Montenegro), drawing the political leaders of Montenegro, in particular, into the criminal and other structures to have some kind of serious smear articles. After all, Milo Djukanovic is considered to be one of the most famous political crime bosses. Cigarettes trade is the most “minor offense” in comparison with arms trading and drug trafficking support, which is also listed for Milo Djukanovic”, says Elena Ponomareva.
According to her, the basic conditions in which he will continue to rule the country had been already set before Djukanovic. These are cooling in relations with Russia, the recognition of “Kosovo” and Montenegro’s accession to NATO. The first two conditions have already been implemented, take the anti-Russian sanctions as an example. It remains only to join the North Atlantic Alliance.
The fate of Milo Djukanovic is predictable, according to the Russian expert. Now or later, he will be simply replaced with a more suitable political figure.
That is one of the three main options for the future of Montenegro.
The largest opposition force is Democratic Force which focuses on what is counterpose to Djukanovic’s regime. This is a coalition of parties and movements, united by the idea on the need to overthrow Milo Djukanovic and the DPS and NATO’s referendum.
Democratic Front is not exactly a monolithic structure. On the one hand, there’s the well presented pro-Serb and pro-Russian alternative; the most outstanding representatives are the New Serbian Democracy (Andrija Mandic) and the Democratic People’s Party (Milan Knezevic). On the other hand, leader of the Movement for Change, Nebojsa Medojevic once supported the adoption of the Constitution of Montenegro, and is not against NATO – he supports a democratic referendum on this important issue, and is well-regarded in the DF.
Despite the fact that the election campaign of the DF was focused on local politics and addressing of socio-economic problems, NATO opponents continue to prevail in their ranks. Namely the Democratic Front began mass protests against joining the Alliance, opposed this step within the walls of Parliament and during violent clashes with the police at the rallies against NATO were members and activists of this party. Now the beating of demonstrators on October 2015 is a well-known fact that publicly put in charge Djukanovic’s regime.
DF carries a bright political campaign with a huge amount of visual agitation, with interesting and high-quality videos in a humorous way, in the form of simple human relations, showing the situation in the country. Indeed, this is the first time of such a campaign in Montenegro.
Finally, the third option is “The Key” coalition, composed of “Demos”, the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) and “Ura”parties. “The Key” categorically denies any cooperation with the authorities and signed an agreement with DF on cooperation on a number of points, for example, the formation of a new government without the DPS and a referendum on NATO. Later, the Democratic Montenegro joined the agreement.
Meanwhile, “The Key” coalition is the so-called “systemic opposition”, which had previously been able to give seats to some of its ministers thanks to an agreement with Milo Djukanovic. Such a policy seemed to be very suspicious and Democratic Front activists demanded for a more decisive position.
That is why elections in Montenegro would be monitored not only by the Montenegrins themselves and their neighbors in the Balkans, but also by the world’s leading powers. As was noted by Giulietto Chiesa, “even if Montenegro is a small country, its rejection of the planned Western path, even a referendum on the issue, will seriously affect the EU and NATO itself. The Montenegrin opposition understands the degree of responsibility,” assured the journalist.
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