Opposition claims victory in Montenegro’s parliamentary elections

Though the final results are yet to be declared formally, it is most likely the end of the three-decade rule of the Democratic Party of Socialists and its leader Milo Djukanovic

September 01, 2020 by Peoples Dispatch
Credit : Balkan Insight

The opposition parties in Montenegro have claimed victory over the ruling party after the completion of counting of votes on Monday, August 31. The election for Montenegro’s fifth parliament was held on August 30.

Though the formal results will be declared by the country’s State Election Commission (DIK) later in the week, based on the percentage of votes and the distribution of seats to respective coalitions, it is most likely that the ruling coalition led by president Milo Djukanovic has lost the majority for the first time in 30 years.  

The total turnout for Sunday’s elections was over 76%. Ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has got around 35% of popular votes which translates into 30 seats out of a total of 81 in Montenegro’s parliament. It had 41% votes in the last elections. For a simple majority, a party or a coalition needs 41 seats.

The election for Montenegro’s parliament is held according to closed list proportional representation. A party or a coalition has to get a minimum 3% of popular vote to pass the electoral threshold and get a seat in the parliament.

The main opposition, For the Future of Montenegro — a rainbow coalition of parties belonging to different political ideologies from left to right and led by Democratic Front Party — has won 32.5% of votes and will get 27 seats. Its leader, Zdravko Krivokapic, has already declared victory and called for a greater unity among the opposition parties against the ruling coalition.

Zdravko Krivokapic is hoping to form a government with the support of other opposition groups which includes Peace is our Nation, which got around 12.5% of votes and is expected to get 10 seats, and United Reform Coalition (Black on White) with 5.5% of votes and 4 seats. He has also asked the smaller parties representing ethnic minorities in the country (Bosnians and Albanians), who have been the traditional supporters of the ruling DPS to join hands against the ruling party and Milo Djukanovic.

Zdravko Krivokapic was quoted in various reports saying, “we [the opposition coalition] cannot build a new Montenegro without them [minority ethnic parties]”.

Albanian and Bosnian ethnic parties have got five seats altogether. The Social Democratic Party of Montenegro got two and Social Democrats got three seats. Social democratic parties have traditionally been a part of the DPS governments.

The leaders of the three main opposition coalitions met on Sunday and announced their intention to form a technocratic government in the country.  

A country of around 620,000 people, Montenegro was separated from Serbia in 2006. It has been ruled by DPS since 1991 when it was a part of Yugoslavia. Its leader, Milo Djukanovic, who is currently the president of the country, is considered as the strongman in the country’s politics. He has been in power since 1991.  

Milo Djukanovic has followed a pro-European Union and pro-NATO policy since Montenegro’s separation from Serbia. Successive DPS governments and Milo Djukanovic have faced several allegations of corruption and mismanagement.

Milo Djukanovic, addressing his party colleagues on Monday, refused to concede defeat and asked his supporters to wait till the formal announcement of results.

Recently there has been a rift between the DPS and the country’s dominant Serbian Orthodox Church which is considered as the central reason for the loss of DPS.

The Church has opposed the law passed in December last year by the DPS government which asks the religious establishments in the country to provide evidence of ownership for their properties. This led to the Serbian Orthodox Church openly campaigning against the DPS in the elections.

The opposition coalition is considered pro-Serbian and pro-Russian. The Democratic Front Party which is leading the For the Future of Montenegro coalition is considered a staunch opponent of the country’s membership of NATO. However, other parties in the coalition do not have such strong positions. It is, nevertheless, likely that the opposition’s victory can lead Montenegro to tilt away from the EU and NATO.