Last few months have brought significant changes to the Montenegrin opposition landscape. Firstly, it’s important to note that political parties in Montenegro are not entirely defined by strong ideological divide, in the classical sense. Majority of existing parties call themselves ‘social-democratic’ or centre-left. In fact, there is no real competition between progressive, conservative, liberal, green or other ideology, and it doesn’t play any significant importance in voters’ choices. The real divide exists between long-lasting ruling coalition (made of DPS, and smaller SDP), and the opposition (which is made up of several parties and movements). This divide is overlapped by another one – parties which supported the independence of Montenegro (the ruling coalition) and those which didn’t (most of opposition parties). Another layer of division has been recently added – those who support integration of Montenegro into the NATO (the ruling parties and smaller part of the opposition) and those who don’t (most of the opposition).
It quickly becomes clear that current political scene doesn’t offer the possibility to make a real choice, based on economic program, social values, or other relevant policies. Rather, one can choose between the ruling coalition, which promises ‘continuation of Euro-Atlantic integration and better future’ and the opposition that is searching its place (large parts of it still haven’t fully embraced the independence of Montenegro, which forces many pro-opposition voters towards abstention or simply voting the ruling parties).
Opposition scene is basically divided between Democratic Front (DF), which is made up of New Serbian Democracy (Nova) and Movement for Changes (PzP). Both of these parties faced serious downfall of support; however, the decision to create a new structure and change the strategy by involving ‘independent, non-party’ figures gave rise to the DF, especially since they elected a prominent figure of Miodrag Lekic, as their leader. Their success culminated with the presidential elections, when Mr Lekic almost won the elections (both sides claimed victory) but at the end (due to questionable final results) the ruling DPS party candidate was proclaimed a winner. DF didn’t manage to capitalize this growth of support, on a contrary it succeeded to waste its energy by nominating Mr Lekic for the position of a Mayor of Podgorica, which he also lost against the ruling DPS candidate. DF is now once again searching for its future strategy, faced with huge problems after Mr Lekic (together with significant portion of members) left this coalition and announced creation of his own party.
Demos is a new political group being currently formed by Miodrag Lekic and members who left DF. He was also joined by some leading figures of pro-Serbian ‘Nova’ party, which was seen as a negative move by many citizens who hoped to see a truly civic-minded group with fresh faces.
Recent ‘break-up’ of the Positive Montenegro, a civic, centre-left party that was formed in 2012 has once again shown how hard it is to create a stable and viable alternative to both – the ruling and the opposition parties. However, their initial success (8,5% in their first national elections) serves as a reminder that a civic, progressive and pro-EU alternative to the existing polarized parties is necessary.
Socialist People’s Party (SNP) was a stable opposition party, but the genuine opposition-orientation of its leadership is questioned by many. It was once the largest opposition party (it was created as a consequence of the division of the ruling DPS party in 1997). Some analysts believe that SNP (or parts of its leadership) are controlled by DPS and recent divisions broke out in this party as well, with many members joining the young politician Aleksa Becic (he was a candidate for the mayor of Podgorica), who announced creation of his own political party.
A new opposition group, Citizens’ Movement ‘United Reformist Action’ (URA) was also created recently. Founders say that URA is an ‘integralist’ movement intended to gather all citizens, independent intellectuals, informal groups, NGOs and all other individuals who wish to contribute to changes in Montenegrin society. Many prominent figures (including some former ministers and officials) have already joined the movement, and the URA stated that it will have a clear progressive, pro-European and Euro-Atlantic orientation, with a mission to finally remove the 25 years long-lasting DPS rule. Dritan Abazovic, one of the founders of URA, states that URA brings a new quality on the political scene of Montenegro offering a serious program and experienced experts, mixed with new and fresh faces. Mr Abazovic says that URA is ideologically closest to progressive, center-left ideas, but that movement is welcoming all citizens who demand changes, be it leftist, liberals or greens. ‘Being an integral movement of free citizens of many diverse backgrounds, our main goal is to move Montenegro from the current pre-political stage into a real democratic phase’. He insists on the need to build a new political culture, which is desperately needed in Montenegro. ‘This also includes the opposition as well, and paradoxically, recent changes could bring positive effects for the refreshed opposition’ claims Abazovic. Moreover, Rade Bojovic, former leader of the Movement for Independence (during the referendum campaign in 2006) also believes that the time has come for a change in the way Montenegrin politics and society operates. He states that ‘Montenegro is overtaken by the rule of political parties who introduced a clientelist system, a so-called partitocracy and this has significantly reduced the ability for any reforms in the society’. He states that this is one of the main reasons why URA decided not to be a political party and to offer the citizens a new model of engagement in the political life.
It certainly helps that URA (unlike most other new and old opposition groups) has a clear position towards main issues, such as membership in the EU and NATO, as well as unquestionable acceptance of Montenegrin statehood that still remains a haunting issue, which keeps significant part of the opposition locked in the past.
While last few months created great turbulence in the opposition scene, it remains to be seen if this new wave will affect the ruling parties. Upcoming party congresses of both DPS and SDP will make the situation clearer.
This article offers short introduction into the recent changes on the opposition scene of Montenegro and does not intend to give overview of the complete political situation in the country, nor to explain reasons behind numerous party divisions.
 The leaders of URA movement use this term to define their commitment to EU & Euro-Atlantic integration, but also to show their trans-ideological approach.