Massive protests in Montenegro are continuing to grow, week after week thousands of citizens are gathering in the centre of the capital – Podgorica, calling for the resignation of President Milo Djukanovic and other governmental and judicial officials. This Saturday (March 2nd) it was the biggest gathering so far, with around 15.000 people attending the peaceful rally. This number is impressive, knowing the fact that Montenegro has barely 650.000 people.
The protests are lead by an informal movement called RESIST! (#OdupriSe) which is made of intellectuals, academics, NGO activists, journalists… Interestingly, politicians are not involved in the organisation and leadership of the protests though opposition parties support logistically the protestors.
Why are the people protesting?
These are the biggest protests in Montenegro’s recent history (since regaining independence in 2006). Montenegro has never experienced a democratic change of power. Elections are generally considered free and fair but in reality all the state resources are used by the ruling DPS party in order to secure the electoral victory. Protestors accuse the country’s long-time leader, President Djukanovic, (who is holding power for almost 30 years), of creating poverty, systematic corruption and weakening media freedom and human rights.
What sparked the protests?
A video clip from 2016 surfaced in January which showed prominent Montenegrin businessman Dusko Knezevic, (owner of the Atlas Group), appearing to hand the then mayor of Podgorica, Slavoljub Stijepovic, an envelope containing (according to Knezevic) $100,000, to fund a DPS election campaign. Knezevic has since then moved to London in order to avoid being arrested, since the country immediately sought to arrest the businessman. He claims that he has many other videos which will prove that he has been providing secret cash to the DPS party for the past 25 years. These kind of “donations” and illegal practices are known in Montenegro since a long time, but this was the first concrete confirmation of something that has long been an open secret.
Protests – peaceful, non-partisan and massive
Civic activists supported by most opposition parties in Montenegro have kept up the pressure on the government, demanding the resignation of the country’s top leaders, starting with President Milo Djukanovic, and focusing on alleged corruption in their ranks.
Ubje?uju nas da slobodni gra?ani ne postoje. Da postoje jedino interes i klanovi. Mi smo ve?eras još jednom dokazali suprotno!Demokratija leži u gra?anima. Mi smo država! ? #oduprise
Publiée par Odupri se – 97 000 sur Samedi 2 mars 2019
The protestors are determined to continue their fight and promised to keep the their gatherings peaceful and civilized. No single incident has been noticed in the past four rallies. The crowd usually marches through the capital, Podgorica, making stops along the governmental institutions and chanting: “Milo thief”, “No more crime,” “Rebellion” and “We are the state”.
Brussels has continuosly demanded more concrete results in the fight against corruption at a high political level as one of the main conditions for it making progress towards joining the EU. However, the EU remains mostly silent on the latest revelations and the massive protests which are shaking Montenegro. EU’s insistence on supporting the current government is only leading to more anti-EU sentiments and not contributing to the real democratic change in the country.
Fun fact – the rule of the current system in Montenegro is even longer than 30 years because the ruling DPS party was created from what used to be the Communist Party, which held power for the 50 years before Montenegro switched into democratic system.