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Montenegro - 2016 Election - Parliament

On 19 May 2016, after months of negotiations, an Agreement for Creating Conditions for Free and Fair Elections was reached between the parliamentary parties. Among other issues, the agreement stipulated the resignation of the director and editorial team of the public broadcaster and the allocation of four ministers and one deputy prime minister to the opposition parties.4 On the same day, NATO foreign ministers and the government of Montenegro signed a protocol on the country’s accession to the Alliance. On 2 June, Speaker of the parliament was dismissed and Darko Pajovic, the leader of PCG, undertook this role. On 11 July, President Vujanovic called elections for 16 October.

After more than 20 years in power, Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic faced a tough battle in elections on 16 October 2016. Milo Djukanovic first came to power in 1989 as the secretary of the League of Communists of Montenegro (SKCG). In 1990 the SKCG was reformed as the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS), and since then the party, with Djukanovic at the helm, had to this day governed the country either independently or in coalition. These elections were conducted under a substantially revised legal framework. Changes include new provisions on the allocation of mandates to minority lists, voter registration and voter identification on election day, candidate registration, including the representation of women in parliament, campaign finance, and the composition and competences of election administration.

Andrija Mandic, leder of the New Serbian Democratic party (NSD) which is part of the Democratic Front (DF) coalition, said Djukanovic has neither followed the right policies, neither had the support of the majority of citizens. "He has recognized the false state of Kosovo, but 75 percent of citizens were against it. Almost the same proportion of people was against the decision to impose sanctions against Russia, and there is a similar situation regarding the issue of entering NATO. The DF wants to correct the deviation of power, and we will only pursue policies that have the support of the majority of Montenegrins.... "The fact that the government has followed the policy of joining NATO is the main reason why the international players turned a blind eye to what Djukanovic did during elections. He returned them the favor by implementing the foreign policy objectives that are important to those countries".

Ahead of the election, Djukanovic accused Serbia of serving Russia's interests in an attempt to put Montenegro's drive to join NATO and the European Union (EU) into reverse. Djukanovic's main opposition bloc, however, openly called for closer ties with Russia and is against membership of both the EU and NATO. The Democratic Front also called for a referendum on joining the military alliance.

The parliamentary election on 16 October 2016 could be Montenegro's last before joining the Western NATO alliance. NATO membership could act as a wedge issue, boosting support for eurosceptic parties and forcing the Democratic Party of Socialists to seek new coalition partners for the first time since 2006. Joining the alliance is the central pillar of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's campaign ahead of an election. A poll by the Center for Democracy and Human Rights and the U.S. Embassy showed 50.5 percent would vote in favor of joining the alliance and 49.5 percent against if a referendum promised by the Democratic Front opposition party were held. Djukanovic said opposition parties are Russian-funded, a claim they denied.

The 16 October 2016 parliamentary elections were held in a competitive environment and fundamental freedoms were generally respected. NATO membership was a key issue in the campaign. The campaign was characterized by a lack of distinct policy alternatives, with the exception of geo-political orientation, and permeated by personalized attacks. The ruling party used the campaign to underline their achievements, promised stability and European standards of living. The opposition tried to capitalize on public discontent over the ruling party's long political dominance, and on growing unemployment and high-level corruption. While pluralistic, the media did not exercise editorial independence. Election administration met all legal deadlines, however, despite increased operational and human resources, the professional capacity of election administration remains inadequate. Election day proceeded in a calm and orderly manner, with few cases of procedural irregularities.

With about 60 percent of the 16 October 2016 parliamentary vote counted, the Democratic Party of Socialists had won 41 percent, while two opposition parties - the Democratic Front and the Key Coalition had - 21 and 11 percent. respectively. If correct, the DPS would win but without enough votes to govern alone in the 81-seat parliament.

The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) won most of the votes and gaining 36 of 81 seats in the parliament. The second party after DPS, the Democratic Front, gained only 18 seats. However, four opposition parties and coalitions (the Democratic Front, the Key Coalition, the Social Democratic Party and the Democrats) reportedly got 41 seats taken together, which gave them a chance to form a government.

Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic resigned 26 October 2016, hours after suggesting that Russia was involved in an alleged coup attempt on the country's election day and accusing the opposition of collaborating with the Kremlin. Djukanovic said on October 25 that there was "a strong connection of a foreign factor" in the October 16 vote, which was marked by the arrest of 20 people suspected of planning armed attacks against the prime minister and his supporters after parliamentary election results were announced. Russia has strongly opposed Djukanovic's bid to join NATO and the European Union while opposition leaders made frequent visits to Moscow ahead of the vote.

The DPS did not provide a reason for the 54-year old's decision to leave office. It was also unclear whether Djukanovic would remain head of the DPS or abandon politics entirely. This is not the first time that Djukanovic has stepped down as prime minister. In 2006 and 2010, he gave up the premier's office but remained party leader of the DPS. In both cases, Djukanovic returned as prime minister after a two-year hiatus. There had been speculation about such a move since January, when Djukanovic barely survived a vote of confidence and only just cobbled together a new majority in parliament. Since then, Djukanovic has hinted that he might quit the post he has held for more than 25 years, and Markovic - Djukanovic’s close ally for decades - would be an ideal replacement.

Markovic was nominated Prime Minister-designate after the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, scored yet another election victory on October 16. The major opposition parties rejected holding any talks with Filip Djukanovic, whom they accused of corruption and authoritarianism during his 25 years as either president or prime minister. The DPS nominated Markovic to become premier instead.

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Page last modified: 03-01-2018 18:30:30 ZULU