Montenegro and European Union

The coalition of the Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic „For European Montenegro“ won an absolute majority in the election of March 29th 2009, with 51% of the votes (receiving 58% of seats in Parliament). New strongest opposition party is Socialist People’s Party (Srdjan Milic), that received 16%. Parliamentary status is also ensured for New Serbian Democracy – Andrija Mandic (9%) and Movement for Changes – Nebojsa Medojevic (6%). Turnout was 65%, which is under the Montenegrin average. On local levels, ruling coalition scored even better results, winning unbelievable ¾ of all votes in town of Budva.

Although 16 different parties and coalitions competed at the election, only five of them managed to receive enough votes for the parliamentary status.

In 2006. political parties in Montenegro agreed to hold the next vote by the end of 2009 but Djukanovic’s Coalition brought it forward, asking a mandate for EU accession talks and fight against recession. Opposition claims that ruling party has set up the vote early because they fear that global financial crisis would strongly hit the country and endanger their position. Also, they accuse him of failing to fight organised crime and corruption, so many voters see his commitment to EU membership as the best way to protect his own interests and accumulated wealth.

Huge drop in foreign investments has slow down Montenegro’s economic growth, and is expected to fall from over 10 percent (in 2007) to less than 2 percent this year, according to the International Monetary Fund estimation.

The winning Democratic Party of Socialists (created from ex-communist party) has been absolute ruler of Montenegro for the past 20 years. (see more)

“A controversial figure, Milo Djukanovic (see a video about his role in Balkan wars) has already served four terms as prime minister and one term as president of Montenegro. He also withdrew from politics in 2006, for a short period, to dedicate his time to business interests.
Mr Djukanovic was under investigation by Italian prosecutors for his alleged role in a multimillion dollar mob-run cigarette smuggling racket to Italy (in the 1990s) and for money laundering. Since Djukanovic became prime minister again last February, the case was dropped after. Many opposition leaders claim that Djukanovic accumulated millions of euros in investment and banking schemes, while his family and friends own great amount of Montenegrin wealth.“

The shaky role of European Union in Elections.

Some opposition leaders don’t like the fact that certain leaders of European Union continuosly support the ruling party. From elections to elections, prominent representatives of EU, such as Javier Solana, Olli Rehn and others, openly send encouragement messages, or even visit Montenegro, just a few days before the elections.

They meet with Montenegrin leaders (leaders of the ruling coalition) and it clearly sends a message to the voters that „we are on the right way to the EU, and if we wish to continue that way, we should vote the ruling party“. Also political marketing of the so-called „coalition for European Montenegro“ mercilessly (ab)use EU by advertising that „Europe support the ruling party“…“Europe is with us“ etc.

Another completely unexpected visitor showed up in Montenegro just a week before elections. Silvio Berlusconi, Italian Prime Minister met with President Filip Vujanovic and PM Milo Djukanovic (both from ruling party), but he refused to meet politicians from Montenegro’s opposition parties. (see more) (whole story of Berlusconi’s visit to Montenegro)

„Stable political system“

In the absence of the first opposition party in Montenegro (Liberal Alliance of Montenegro), the rest of opposition got terrible results (all of them together collected about 35%, and ruling coalition received 51%), while many voters decided not to vote. Approxinately one third of voters didn’t use their right, which is more than average abstinence. Liberal Alliance of Montenegro has „frozen“ their political activities in march 2005, explaining that Montenegro lacks basic democratic principles which would ensure normal and independent functioning of an oposition party. Last election of march 2009, proved that opposition indeed doesn’t have even smallest opportunity to make any changes. Independent analysts believe that changes are impossible since ruling party holds the monopoly in all mechanisms of the State, which are remained habits from communist times.

During the election campaing the pressure was high, especially on the citizens who were believed to be against the ruling coalition. Daily newspapers „Vijesti“ and „Dan“ often reported of citizens being threatened to either lose jobs or other benefits, if not agreed to vote for the ruling coalition. The biggest scandal happened in primary schools were directors of those educational institutions received the lists with their employees (teachers) and had to circle the names of those who were against the current regime. Opposition parties supported the brave teacher who stood up against this practice, and decided to report everything to the press. The Ministry of Education later issued a statement which forbids those illegal political activities in schools.

The other big sign of weak political system in Montenegro happened at University, when prominent professor with independent views was interrogated because of his statements.

„Dr. Milan Popovic was summoned to the hearing on 27 February 2009 by the State Prosecutor General of Montenegro for having expressed his suspicion about the existence of organised crime among the highest representatives of government in Montenegro, which represents an open form of pressure on free intellectuals and citizens who are not loyal to the ruling regime. Moreover, during the election campaign the government exerted pressure on teachers and all those who are financed from the state budget, calling them to express their loyalty and vote for DPS at the forthcoming elections. Even non-government organisations in Montenegro are mostly controlled or influenced by the ruling structure.“ (source: IFIMES. Read more)

Professor Popovic stated that „even in times of Slobodan Milosevic, it was not tough as now“. „The opposition politician Slavko Perovic (leader of former Liberal Alliance of Montenegro) believes that “Milo Djukanovic is just another manipulating politician and a dedicated follower of Slobodan Milosevic. Just like Milosevic, he was and is interested only in power; he is a man of the past and an outdated politician”.“ (see more – ifimes)

No matter how clear the winner looks like, tough times for Montenegro may just begin. The country will surely face with effects of global crisis, while the road to EU may still be blocked until some drastic changes are made. Lately, Netherlands, Belgium, Germany and several other EU members pointed out that future steps of Montenegrin accession to the EU depend on Montenegro’s ability to fight corruption and organized crime, while elections will also show the „level of stability and progress“. According to the results, Montenegro seems perfectly stable, but does the EU truly believes that this is the road to progress??

more sources about elections…

Euronews video

New York Times article

International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES)

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