Montenegro to vote in most unpredictable election to date

Montenegro to vote in most unpredictable election to date
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia October 14, 2016

Montenegro will hold the most unpredictable general election in its short history of independence on October 16, which could end the long domination of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). 

Djukanovic has controlled Montenegro’s political life for the past 25 years, being either prime minister or president for most of that time. His party has won all the elections since independence in 2006, but could be about to lose on October 16 as almost all the country's opposition parties have decided to unite and form a government without the DPS.

In October, several opposition parties agreed to form a government together and exclude the DPS. Although they did not sign a formal pact, the Democratic Front (DF) and the newly-formed Kljuc (Key) coalition, as well as the Demokratska Crna Gora (Democratic Montenegro) party agreed to form a joint government.

These parties could theoretically gain enough support to oust Djukanovic unless the DPS gets support from the opposition Poitivna Crna Gora. The party helped Djukanovic in January, when it supported a confidence vote on his government and practically replaced the DPS’ long-standing ally the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which withdrew its support for Djukanovic and ended the 18-year coalition.

Although the DPS and Pozitivna Crna Gora will not run together on October 16, the opposition party has given clear signals it is ready to support Djukanovic after the election. Its leader, Darko Pajovic, told local media that the two parties have a lot in common as they are pro-Nato and pro-EU oriented.

On the other hand, all the other opposition parties seem united by only one goal – to oust Djukanovic and take power. The stability of such large coalition is questionable, as the parties in it have different orientations. The DF is a pro-Russian and anti-Nato coalition of parties, while Kljuc sees the EU and Nato as the right direction for Montenegro.

On October 16 a total of 528,817 Montenegrins will choose between 17 parties and coalitions, according to the electoral roll provided to the central election body by Montenegro’s interior ministry. The completion of the list was accompanied by tensions as Internal Affairs Minister Goran Danilovic has refused to sign it over credibility concerns.

In a written explanation on the decision not to sign the list presented to the government, Danilovic, who was appointed from the opposition’s quota of ministers, said that he and his coordination team were obstructed by a number of people in their attempts to verify and clear the electoral roll of fake identities.

Danilovic wrote that the voting locations of around 100,000 people had been changed, which could lead to enormous and unacceptable electoral migration on October 16.

Montenegro’s Network for Affirmation of the NGO Sector (MANS) also raised concerns over the credibility of the electoral roll. The NGO said that the list contains the names of more than 3,600 people aged 40 and above who were registered to vote for the first time. Among them were several people older than 100. None of those people were on any of the previous three electoral lists and MANS said it had concerns that they could affect the outcome of the general elections. The list also includes around 50 dead people.

Following Danilovic’s refusal to sign the electoral roll, the government ordered the interior ministry’s secretary to do so. The list was sent to the central election body on time, but doubts over its credibility remained.

Controversy had previously erupted in September when the Agency for the Prevention of Corruption 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 accusations were levelled at the main opposition parties including the three members of the newly-formed Kljuc 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 DF, Montenegro’s Democratic Union (CDU) and Social Democrats of Montenegro (SD).

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

The DPS has also been the object of attacks. The party has been accused of paying emigrants to vote for it, hoping to gain majority thanks to their votes, a claim that has been denied by DPS representatives.

The pre-election campaign was further marred by questions over the financing of the campaigns of the main opposition parties. Local media reported data provided by all political parties and coalitions to the anti-corruption agency. According to this information, the Kljuc coalition has not gathered any funds from donations for its campaign, while the DF has collected around 10,000. The local NGO Centre for Democratic Transition has reported that political parties have spent at least 1mn in the pre-election campaign.