May 25, 2015
Montenegrin ruling coalition is made of Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and a smaller Social-Democratic Party (SDP). DPS has been ruling the country for the last 25 years, while SDP joined them in 1997, at the moment when DPS started steering away from their partnership with Milosevic.
Both parties are associate members of Party of European Socialists (PES), and have a strong pro-European and pro-NATO orientation. However, DPS has always been seen as a corrupted party with many issues on their back, from historical mistakes which include support for Milosevic and the wars in the 1990’s, to strong ties with local tycoons. It is also seen as a proponent of ‘neo-liberal’ economic ideology, while keeping ties with social democracy only in their name. In contrast, SDP was part of the anti-war movement in the 1990’s and remained to be seen as a reformist force, even years after joining the coalition with DPS. Their leaders even claimed that SDP contributed to a faster ideological shift of DPS, which also resulted in stronger support for Montenegrin independence. SDP managed to keep this reputation mainly because they remained outside of big controversial issues and privatizations, and often they opposed deals which were deemed harmful for Montenegrin economy. However, their long partnership with DPS and several unsuccessful attempts to clearly distance themselves from their bigger coalition partner, has forced many to treat them as a ‘part’ of DPS, and lose trust in their rhetoric. Any remaining ‘reformist credit’ has been spent with their failure to form a local government with the opposition parties in the capital – Podgorica, even though they clearly participated as an ‘opposition’ platform (with Positive Montenegro) on the local elections. Most analysts and opposition politicians believe that SDP has lost its credibility and a chance to play a pivotal role in the final (and country’s first!) democratic change of government.
The case of Queen’s beach and divisions in SDP.
As the SDP congress (and election of their new president) approaches on 2nd of May, the two fractions became clear more than ever. One fraction is supporting the current president of SDP, Ranko Krivokapic (also President of Montenegrin Parliament), while the other fraction is supporting Ivan Brajovic (current minister of transport). First fraction stands for a more independent political course for SDP, while the other is seen as a fraction which has close ties to DPS.
This internal division was visible in the last 2-3 years, but it intensified after the attempt to sell a Queen’s beach to an UAE owned Royal Group. A lot of discussions were sparked after a young politician from SDP branch of Budva, Deputy Mayor Ljubomir Filipovic refused to sign an agreement for the sale of the Queen’s beach (worth 200 million €). For numerous reasons the deal is seen as controversial by many actors, both in SDP and the opposition. Although Mr Filipovic was known to the local scene as someone who already disagreed with some of the policies governing his municipality (the most important town for Montenegrin tourism), it was only after the issue with Queen’s beach that he was catapulted into a national political debate. His move was supported by his party, but in the long-run it caused turbulence not only between SDP and DPS (they supported the sale), but also inside of SDP where two fractions became visible more than ever.
Filipovic’s case can serve as a paradigm for the division that is happening among the leadership and members of SDP. After his refusal to sign the abovementioned agreement, many media controlled or close to the ruling DPS started attacking him, accusing him of ‘chasing away the badly needed foreign investors’, and bearing responsibility for the fact that many people might suffer economically as a consequence. Newspaper ‘Informer’ was the frontrunner of this negative campaign, publishing articles on him two times on their front page.
Filipovic was among the first to acknowledge public support for the leadership of Mr. Krivokapic, while calling for his party to preserve its authentic social-democratic values, and continue be more open for cooperation with opposition subjects and civil society. He also announced that he would resign from the position of Deputy-Mayor of Budva and leave SDP, if his option doesn’t win majority at the congress of the party. His example is certainly not unique and surely more members and functionaries of the party share his views.
Pressure and divisions will probably continue to grow as the congress approaches, but it is safe to say that SDP has only two possibilities left. Either the ‘autonomous’ option will win and clear distance from DPS will be made in the very near future, or the pro-DPS option will win, and the party will become more like a second Liberal Party – another coalition partner which just exists to maintain ‘diversity’ in the DPS camp, while officially having no power (nor public support) at all. Recently published poll which gives SDP only 3% of public support (edge of the parliamentary threshold) only confirms the fact that SDP must make a final choice. Clear and fast.
In the last article on our blog we discussed about the recent changes in the opposition scene in Montenegro. Click here to read more.montenegro