24/08/2006 - D+30
Montenegro, which became an independent state on 3rd June last, will be holding general elections on 10th September next. The same day local elections will also take place in thirteen of the country's twenty-one municipalities (Andrijevica, Bar, Berane, Bjelo, Polje, Danilovgrad, Kolasin, Plav, Pluzine, Pljevlja, Rozaje, Ulcinj and Savnik). The capital, Podgorica and the towns of Golubocvi and Tuzi will also be electing their local councils and mayors.
The President of the Republic, Filip Vujanovic (Democratic Union of Socialists, DPS) ignored criticism on the part of the opposition parties who would have liked the election to have been held later on during September or even at the beginning of October. Predrag Bulatovic (Popular Socialist Party, SNP), said that the political parties could not be ready before 24th September. The opposition also deplores the lack of funding; Branislav Radulovic, Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Montenegro recently announced that around one million euros were missing in order to organise the election successfully.
The Political System
On 21st May last the Montenegrins voted by 55.5% in favour of the independence of their State, 44.5% of the electorate voted in favour of maintaining their country's union with Serbia. The result fulfilled two conditions set by the EU for the popular vote to be valid, ie a participation rate of at least 50% of those registered and a result rallying at least 55% of the vote. The participation rate rose to 86.6% i.e. the highest rate recorded in Montenegro since the country has been organising free, democratic elections.
The Democratic Union of Socialists (DPS) led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic and the Albanian Democratic Union (DUA-UDSh) were in favour of independence whilst the Popular Socialist Party (NS), the Serb Democrat Party (DSS) and the Serb Popular Party (SNS) were in favour of maintaining the union with Serbia.
United with Serbia since 14th March 2002 in the State of Serbia and Montenegro, which replaced the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Montenegro did however have its own political and administrative system before its independence. Its present Parliament has 74 representatives elected for a mandate of four years.
At present nine political parties are represented in Parliament:
- The Democratic Union of Socialists (DPS), Milo Djukanovic, the Prime Minister's party, has 30 seats;
- The Social Democrat Party (SDP), led by Ranko Krivokapic which is allied to the Democratic Union of Socialists has 5 seats;
- The Civic Party, the other ally of the majority has one representative;
- The Popular Socialist Party (SNP), led by Predrag Bulatovic, is the main opposition party with 19 seats;
- The Serb Popular Party (SNS), led by Andrija Mandic, has 6 representatives;
- The Popular Party (NS), led by Predrag Popovic, has 5 seats;
- The Liberal Alliance, (LSCG), led by Vesna Perovic, has four seats;
- The Albanian Democratic Union (DUA-UDSh), has one seat;
- The Democratic League of Montenegro also has one seat.
Since the electoral code stipulates that an MP has to be elected by six thousand voters the new Montenegrin Parliament will have 81 members instead of the present 74. Parliament's first task will be to adopt a new Constitution.
Montenegro, which has been dominated by the Democratic Union of Socialists for the last ten years, a party led by Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister since 8th January 2003, has been presided over by Filip Vujanovic, former Prime Minister (1998-2002), since 11th May 2003.
The electoral Campaign
As the general election date draws nearer electoral alliances emerge and new parties are born. On 15th July last in Cetinje, Nebojsa Medojevic, Chairman of the ONG, Movement for Change modified the statutes of his organisation in order to turn it into a political party under the name, Movement for Change (GZP). The new party that will be running in ten municipalities in the local elections would like to have a government of experts responsible for the revision of privatisation and the adoption of a new Constitution. The party is not only part of the opposition to the present government but it also rejects the present system based, in its opinion, on unstable and faulty foundations, corruption, theft and ignorance. According to the new party the upcoming general elections will be the last opportunity to save the State and the population.
Predrag Drecun, former Employment and Social Affairs Minister became the president of the new Democratic Party of Montenegro (DS). This party, which wants to establish privileged relations with neighbouring countries is emphasising the country's economic problems and the divisions that exist within the population. "The government and the opposition want nothing to change, hence maintaining the present divisions and yet whilst these exist there can be no economic progress. We shall try and bring Montenegrins together because only a civic and tolerant Montenegro is a sustainable concept," declared Predrag Drecun maintaining that his new party lies to the right of the political scale. The party that will stand allied to the Northern League led by Smajo Sabotic in the general elections on 10th September believes that it can take the seats in the local elections in the towns of Berane, Kolasin and the capital Podgorica.
Finally Dragan Hadjukovic, former candidate in the presidential election founded the Green Party in July; this party that wants to do away with the national army and prohibit the presence of foreign troops in Montenegro.
The Popular Socialist Party, the Popular Party and the Democrat Party (DSS) led by Ranko Kadic have decided to join forces in a coalition for these general elections. The Serb Popular Party led by Andrija Mandic has chosen to join up with the Radical Serb Party (SRS) led by Tomislav Nikolic, the unfortunate candidate who ran in the presidential election of Serbia on 27th June 2004 against Boris Tadic, and the Democratic Party of Unity (DSJ), that was recently established by Zoran Zizic, former Prime Minister of Yugoslavia after the fall of Slobodan Milosevic (2000-2001) and former leader of the Movement for the Continuation of the Union of Serbia and Montenegro. The agreement signed on 7th August brought together the Popular Socialist Party (NSS) led by Novo Vujosevic, the National Serb Council (SNV) led by Momcilo Vuksanovic and the Academic Alternative led by Vojin Grubac. The party will put forward candidates in the towns of Zabljak, Berane, Bjelo, Polje, Pljevlja, Bar and Podgorica. "We hoped that all the unionist parties would be on the same list but the Popular Socialist Party chose another path," declared Zoran Zizic. "A long battle for the Serb spirit awaits us in Montenegro," declared Tomislav Nikolic, adding that he intended to use the election to draw people's attention to "all of the errors made by the Montenegrin authorities and the tragic consequences of the separation of Serbia and Montenegro." The members of the Serb Popular Party will represent 40% of the first ten candidates on the Serb list.
Finally the Liberal Party (LP) led by Miodrag Zivkovic has formed a coalition with the Bosnian Party (BS) led by Esef Husic and the Budva Forum, a town that lies on the Adriatic coast.
As for the government the Democratic Union of Socialists is putting forward a coalition with the Social Democrat Party and has come to an agreement with the Bosnian Coalition and the Croatian Civic Initiative (HGI), an alliance of parties that supports European values and the development of democracy, along with economic reforms to help Montenegro's integration into Euro-Atlantic structures. Just a few weeks before the election Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic says that he is confident of his party's victory. "I am optimistic. I believe that the coalition of the Democratic Union of Socialists and the Social Democrat Party will win and will receive popular support enabling it to form the next government," he declared maintaining that "Montenegrin citizens are politically sensible and they will support those who have brought them where they are today."
The Democratic Union of Socialists also signed an agreement with the Albanian Democratic Union (DUA-UDSh) with regard to the local elections in the communities of Ulcinj, Tuzi, Plav and Rozaje where many Albanian speakers live.
In July last Predrag Bulatovic, leader of the Popular Socialist Party, said that he was ready to take part in constructive talks and to work towards establishing the new Constitution. "The Popular Socialist Party maintains its opinion that changes must mean dialogue between all Montenegrins and that they are the centre of the widest possible consensus," he stressed. He admitted that the referendum on independence had safeguarded the country's security but that it had also created new divisions between Montenegrins. "This must lead the parties in favour of Montenegro joining the EU to work towards reconciliation," declared Predrag Bulatovic. The Popular Socialist Party said on 31st July that it would not hold major meetings during the electoral campaign but that it was opting more for a door-to-door campaign. The Popular Socialist Party which is the opposition's main strength is campaigning for the establishment of a democratic state of law in Montenegro, with the country's integration into the EU being the heart of its campaign. This is a priority that it also shares with the ruling party, the Democratic Union of Socialists.
"Europe is counting on Montenegro. The government and the opposition are concentrating on belonging to the Union. Might this mean that both the government and opposition will work together in Parliament? Might it go as far as seeing co-operation on a government level? Why not?" said Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic at the end of July. The Popular Socialist Party has however prevented any post-electoral government alliance with the Democratic Union of Socialists led by the present Prime Minister.
According to the latest poll undertaken on 24th to 29th June by the Centre for Opinion Poll Monitoring (CEDEM), the Democratic Union of Socialists is still by far the most popular party with 38.5% being in favour of it. The Popular Socialist Party achieved a score of 8.2% and the Serb Popular Party, 9.1%. In the same poll 37.4% of those interviewed said they "were totally or mostly satisfied" with Milo Djukanovic's government versus 43.6% who said the contrary. According to the latest polls one Montenegrin in three (29.5%) is due to vote for the Democratic Union of Socialists in the general elections on 10th September next; however its partner within the government coalition, the Social Democrat Party is not due to achieve the vital 3% to be represented in Parliament. The official campaign started on 12th July last and will end on 8th September.
Reminder of the General Elections Results on 20th October 2002
participation: 77,2 %
Source CESID (Centre for Elections and Democracy)