Next Montenegrin government still anyone’s game

Next Montenegrin government still anyone’s game
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia October 20, 2016

A new government led by Milo Djukanovic’s long-serving Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) is the most likely outcome following the October 16 general election, but a group of opposition parties still has the chance to form a majority if they can persuade smaller and ethnic minority parties onto their side. 

The DPS and the main opposition parties will have virtually the same number of MPs - 36 for the DPS versus 35 for three opposition parties that agreed to form a joint government prior to the election. This means the parties representing ethnic minorities and two other opposition parties – the DPS’ former ally the Social Democratic Party and the Social Democrats – will have a decisive role in forming the new majority in the parliament. A coalition between the DPS and the SDP is more probable, but yet another term for Djukanovic is by no means assured. 

“The Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro is the winner in the parliamentary election with 36 mandates and this is an indisputable fact, which cannot be opposed by the desperate attempts of the election losers to bring into question the triumph of the DPS,” the party said in a October 18 statement on its website.

The ethnic parties have traditionally backed Djukanovic’s DPS. However, the ethnic parties alone would not give the DPS enough MPs to form a government and political analysts believe that the party will try to attract a civic-oriented party such as the Socialist People's Party (SNP), which is part of the Kljuc coalition and will have three MPs. This would give the veteran Djukanovic, who has ruled Montenegro for most of the last 25 years, a large enough majority to form a stable government and remain in power.

Meanwhile, the Democratic Front (DF), the runner-up in the October 16 general election, has called on all opposition parties that passed the 3% threshold to enter the parliament to form an interim government and prepare for a snap election as it claims the vote was rigged, broadcaster RTCG reported on October 19.

In the first hours after the election, the DF claimed that the opposition could form a government if it joined forces. Following the final results of the exit polls, it called on all opposition parties to unite and form a large coalition, claiming that they can get 41 MPs in the 81-seat parliament.

However, there are a number of problems with this. According to local political analysts, the DF’s initiative has no solid ground as all opposition parties seem to have only one common interest – to oust Djukanovic from power. Such a large coalition with opposite interests seems not viable.

The post-election strategy of many opposition parties is unclear, due to claims by several parties of irregularities during the elections. However, late on October 17, the DF, the Kljuc coalition, Demokratska Crna Gora and the Social Democrats decided they would not recognise the election results, claiming there were huge irregularities. The parties have not yet said what action they plan to take.

Despite the complaints by opposition parties, the OSCE/ODIHR (Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe/Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights) said in its post-election monitoring report that there were “few cases of procedural irregularities”. “Allegations of corruption, foreign funding, political tension and inconsistencies in the legal framework tainted the electoral environment. Despite this, the verdict of our observers is that the elections represented the will of the people,” commented Aleksander Pociej, head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) delegation to Montenegro.

In addition, the DF reportedly seems to have lost its main supporter – Russia – as Moscow has recognised the election results. Without this ally, the DF seems to fear that it will fall into isolation if DPS forms a broad coalition, according to the political analyst Ivan Vukovic, quoted by RTCG. Vukovic believes that the most likely participants in the coalition would be the DPS, the ethnic parties and the SD, but a government based on the participation of other opposition parties such as the SNP is also an option.

On October 18, the state election commission (DIK) announced that 41.42% of the votes were cast for the DPS, securing the party 36 seats in the parliament. Second came the DF with 20.27% (18 seats), followed by the Kljuc coalition with 11.06% (nine seats), Demokratska Crna Gora with 9.99% (eight seats), the SDP with 5.23% (four seats). The SD and the Boniak party will have two mandates each, while the coalition of Albanian parties and the Croatian Civil Initiative party will have one MP each.