Montenegro: Experiment failed – policy

It was a deep turning point in the history of the small, mountainous country in the western Balkans. In December 2020, a government formed in Montenegro that, for the first time in almost three decades, did not include the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) – the party of Milo Đjukanović, also known as the “long-term ruler” because he has been In 1991 he was de facto in government almost continuously, albeit in constantly changing offices, sometimes as President – which he still is today – sometimes as Prime Minister. Increasingly accompanied by allegations of corruption and criticism that Đjukanović is running the country like some kind of profit-oriented private company.

In the elections in August 2020, the DPS lost its previously taken for granted majority – and in December the country got a governing coalition that was labeled “experimental” from the start. This experiment can now be considered a failure for the time being: Prime Minister Zradvko Krivokapić was overthrown on Friday by a vote of no confidence, with the votes of the opposition and parts of his own coalition.

It was a highly unstable alliance right from the start, held together by little more than the common will to remove long-term ruler Đjukanović from the levers of power: the coalition included the large Serbian-nationalist Democratic Front (DF) along with the small left-green, pro-European United Reform Action (URA). The motives for turning against Đjukanović were very different from the start: URA campaigned with promises to fight corruption and bring the country closer to EU membership, for example through judicial reforms. The pro-Serbian DF, on the other hand, based its increase in votes largely on the fact that Đjukanović had tried to use a new law to force the Serbian Orthodox Church to cede large parts of its possessions in the country to the state.

Protests against this had escalated both in Montenegro itself and in neighboring Serbia; Demonstrators in Belgrade, for example, described Djukanović as a “thief” to whom “no holy places will be given”. Several members of the DF in the Montenegrin parliament were arrested – which brought new sympathy to the party.

The prime minister had previously unsuccessfully tried to depose his deputy

It should come as no surprise to anyone that an alliance of these extremely unequal partners found it difficult to initiate real innovations. In order to prevent the DF from dominating the new government too much in terms of personnel and ideology, an expert government was agreed under the leadership of Zradvko Krivokapić, a non-party professor. Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazović, party leader of the green-liberal URA, has now initiated the vote of no confidence against him, which found a majority in parliament with 43 out of 81 votes. Previously, Krivokapić had tried unsuccessfully to depose his vice.

The conflict between the coalition partners had recently escalated for a variety of reasons: the URA was disappointed that the joint government had not made any progress in fighting corruption and judicial reforms; In addition, the divisions in society became more and more acute, and the influence of Serbian nationalist forces grew. A minister publicly denied that the 1995 mass murder in Bosnia’s Srebrenica was a genocide.

Superficially, URA boss Dritan Abazović can now see himself as the winner. In the streets of the capital Podgorica, demonstrators celebrated the successful vote of no confidence as a victory for “European Montenegro”. It is extremely unclear what a future government could look like.

Abazović, whose URA is the smallest partner in the previous coalition, wants to form a minority government – for which he would, however, be dependent on the support of President Đjukanović’s previously voted-out DPS. The pro-Serbian DF is already calling such a scenario a “betrayal” of the will of the electorate in 2020 and prophesies it would create “considerable instability”.

President Đjukanović has already indicated that he could well imagine supporting a minority government, at least for a limited period of time. However, it is far from certain whether his DPS would support the judicial reform and anti-corruption measures demanded by the URA in this constellation. URA boss Abazović, whose party currently has four seats in parliament, announced as a precautionary measure: If they don’t agree, then they’ll just push for new elections.

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