Montenegro’s anti-corruption body launches proceedings against main opposition parties

Montenegro’s anti-corruption body launches proceedings against main opposition parties
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia September 21, 2016

Montenegro’s Agency for the Prevention of Corruption has initiated proceedings against several opposition political parties, claiming that they have not fulfilled the legal obligations to take part in the pre-election campaign.

The proceedings were launched a month ahead of the October 16 general election, in which the accused parties and coalitions are the main opponents of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of the Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic. Previously, the DPS had invited opposition parties to join the government to ensure free and fair elections. However, several opposition groups claim they have fulfilled the requirements and that the agency’s actions are politically motivated. 

The accusations were levelled at the main opposition parties including the three members of the newly-formed Key coalition, the Socialist People's Party (SNP), a party established by the former leader of the Democratic Front, Demos led by Miodrag Lekic and Reform Action (URA). Other parties targeted include the Democratic Front (DF), Montenegro’s Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democrats of Montenegro (SD).

The agency claimed that the parties have not opened special bank accounts to deposit their funds for the pre-election campaign. The parties have allegedly not provided information on their costs, and have not defined individuals in charge of the proper spending of funds.

All the accused parties have claimed that there has been a misunderstanding. However, the agency has so far refused to lift the charges. Moreover, it said that it suspects criminal action and will inform the special prosecution for the fight against corruption and organised crime.

Broadcaster RTCG reported that Key coalition claimed on September 20 it has done everything according to the law and suggested that the agency aimed to harm it ahead of elections.

Key claimed it opened the special bank account on September 19 after the central election committee received its candidate list on September 16. According to Montenegrin legislation, political parties are obliged to open a special bank account for campaign funds as soon as the central election committee approves their candidate lists.

DS leader Damir Sehovic said that his party had opened the required bank account and informed the agency on September 19, right after getting approval from the central election body.

CDU also claimed it has opened the bank account on August 10, while the DF filed its candidate list on September 20 and is still waiting for it to be approved.

The DPS is likely to emerge as the winner of Montenegro’s October general election, but without getting a large enough majority to form a government alone. The party has lost its long-term ally, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and it is not clear whether another party will replace it. There is speculation that the small opposition Pozitivna Crna Gora could form a union with DPS after the elections, but both parties are denying it for the moment.

In April, the DPS and three opposition parties signed an agreement aiming to secure fair and transparent general elections. As part of the deal, three opposition parties - the SDP, URA and Demos - entered the government, getting five ministerial seats. However, the three opposition parties also signed an agreement that none of them would join a coalition with DPS after the general elections.

In August URA ended the agreement with DPS and left the government, blaming the "drastic violation" of the agreement. The sticking point was the adoption of a new deal with Italy’s A2A on the management of power monopoly EPCG, which was unacceptable for URA. Demos and SDP decided to stay in the government.

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