After a marathon three-day debate, prime minister Milo Djukanovic won a vote of confidence in the Montenegrin parliament on January 27, despite losing the support of his party’s long-term coalition partner the Social Democratic Party (SDP).
Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the SDP crossed swords during the debate and effectively terminated their 17 years of collaboration after months of internal conflict within the coalition. In his conclusion speech prior to the vote, Djukanovic invited opposition parties to join the government, and there are already strong indications that Pozitivna Crna Gora will replace the SDP in coalition with the DPS.
Djukanovic won the vote of confidence, which took place late on January 27, with the support of 42 MPs, while 20 voted against. All SDP MPs voted against the government along with few other representatives of small opposition parties.
The day before the start of the debate, on January 24, Pozitivna Crna Gora proposed a plan for exiting the ongoing political crisis. The plan included the participation of all opposition parties in the government and state institutions. The proposal was rejected by the SDP and the opposition Democratic Front (DP), but was welcomed by most other parties including the DPS.
Not surprisingly, Pozitivna Crna Gora backed Djukanovic’s government in the vote and said it was ready to replace the SDP in a future ruling coalition. The centre-left party holds five parliament seats.
Djukanovic embraced Pozitivna Crna Gora’s proposal and said he was ready to offer the DPS's new coalition partners positions in the ministries of internal affairs, finance, social affairs and agriculture.
“I am ready to open space for participation of the parliamentary opposition in these departments. This participation can be on ministerial and deputy-ministerial level with additional powers. I am also ready to provide one position for deputy prime minister in order to give a view on the work of the inner cabinet of the government. I think all this corresponds with Pozitivna Crna Gora’s initiative,” Djukanovic said in his concluding speech.
Djukanovic called the vote on December 28 due to increasing tensions between the DPS and the SDP.
The coalition initially showed signs of a possible collapse in September 2015. Djukanovic referred in a TV interview at the time to “certain disagreements within the governing coalition”. He added that the DPS would most likely run without its coalition partner in the autumn 2016 general election.
The first split appeared in the Adriatic resort of Budva where the local branch of the DPS announced in September it was ending its agreement with the Budva SDP. The DPS accused the SDP of obstructing its efforts to attract foreign investment and develop tourist infrastructure.
Some observers claimed at the time that the only factor holding the DPS and the SDP together was that discussions on Montenegro’s entry to Nato were at a critical point. The country has since received an invitation to join the alliance.
This speculation was confirmed by Djukanovic on the first day of the debate. “[T]he mistrust in the relationships between DPS and SDP has increased. Such inconsistent functioning of the government I have tolerated only to get the Nato invitation,” the prime minister said.
Djukanovic also said that the SDP cannot behave as both a member of the ruling coalition and an opposition party. The SDP has stepped up its criticism of the DPS recently, and its members previously indicated they would vote against the government.
In response, SDP leader Ranko Krivokapic, who is also the parliament speaker, accused the DPS of only seeking obedience, not real MPs.
A poll conducted by CEDEM in November showed that support for the DPS is rising, while the SDP is losing support. According to the poll, the DPS would get 45.1% of the vote, up from 42.7% in July, while the SDP would gain only 4.6%, down from 5.2% in July.
The three-day debate was accompanied by protests organised by the DF in front of the parliament building. The DF refused to participate in the confidence vote, claiming that the parliament is not legitimate and that the only solution is the appointment of an interim government until general elections take place. The DF’s MPs have boycotted the work of the parliament since September, and also rejected offers from the government to join talks on the conduct of future elections.