07/03/2008 - Analysis
484, 000 Montenegrin voters are being called to ballot on 6th April to appoint their President. This presidential election will be the first since independence on 21st May 2006. If no candidate wins the absolute majority in the first round a second round will be organised on 20th April. The mandate of the present President, Filip Vujanovic (Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS) ends on 22nd May next.
The Presidential Function in Montenegro
The head of State is elected for a five year term in office. The old obligatory turn out rate of a minimum 50% of the population necessary for the presidential election to be declared valid was abolished in 2003, after the invalidation of two elections in nearly five months because of inadequate turn out. The President has a purely honorary role. Any candidate running in the presidential election has to be appointed by a political party or a support group and present the signatures of a number of people representing at least 1.5% of the electorate.
5 people are running on 6th April:
- Filip Vujanovic (Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS), outgoing President, former Prime Minister (1998-2002);
- Nebojsa Medojevic, chairman of the opposition party, the Movement for Change (PZP);
- Andrija Mandic (Serb People's Party, SNS), the leader of the coalition "the Serbian List" rallying the Serb People's Party, Democratic Party of Unity (DSJ) led by Zoran Zizic, the Party of Serb Radicals (SSR) led by Tomislav Nikolic, the People's Socialist Party (NSS) led by Novo Vujosevic, the Serb National Council (SNV) led by Momcilo Vuksanovic and Academic Alternative led by Vojin Grubac;
- Srdjan Milic, leader of the centre left party, the Socialist People's Party (SNP);
- Blagota Mitric, professor at the faculty of law at the University of Podgorica.
On 3rd February the People's Party of Montenegro (NS) led by Predrag Popovic announced publicly that he was not going to run in the presidential election and said that he would not support any of the candidates in the race. Likewise Zoran Zivkovic, chairman of the Liberal Party (LP), said that his party would observe the first round without providing any voting recommendations. "No one can expect the Liberal Party to support the Democratic Party of Socialists' candidate or the one put forward by the Serbian People's Party which are respectively a rightwing and a nationalist party," he declared. Finally the Bosnian Party of Montenegro leader, Rafet Husanovic might stand in the presidential election if he has the support of his party.
The Return of Milo Djukanovic
If DPS sympathizers had had the choice of candidate in the presidential election they would surely have appointed Milo Djukanovic. This was the choice they made on 27th December in any case. "The reasons that led me to withdraw are still stand," said the former Head of State refusing the proposal that was made to him. On 7th February the DPS appointed outgoing head of State Filip Vujanovic as their candidate to stand for re-election.
After fifteen years in office – Prime Minister from 1991 to 1997, then from 2002 to 2006, and President of the Republic from 1997-2002 – Milo Djukanovic, believed to be the father of the country's independence decided to withdraw from political life and to focus on his own affairs. However he continued to work in the background and retained the chairmanship of the party (DPS). He dedicated himself to three companies – two consulting and management enterprises, Kapital Invest and Prajmari Invest and a real estate management company, Select Invest. He also purchased nearly 7% of the shares of the Prva Banka, of which his brother Aco is the main shareholder.
The resignation of Prime Minister, Zeljko Struanovic on 31st January on health grounds did however change the political scene. Encouraged by members of his party, Milo Djukanovic finally accepted to replace him as Head of Government.
Many analysts see the return of the DPS leader as a way of federating the party, and even a means of taking the future of Montenegro in hand. "Milo Djukanovic can provide the electorate of the Democratic Party of Socialists with confidence again since at present they are slightly uncertain," stressed analyst Svetozar Jovicevic who believes that this appointment quite contentious. Srdan Darmonovic, the eldest member of the political science faculty believes it quite normal for Milo Djukanovic, leader of the country's biggest political party to take on the role of Prime Minister.
Under suspicion of the international trafficking of cigarettes, Milo Djukanovic is being prosecuted at present by the Italian authorities. On 22nd June the Court in Bari asked for his prosecution together with fifteen other people including former minister Miroslav Ivasinevic. The former Prime Minister, who lost his immunity on 3rd October 2006 when he left office as Head of Government, is accused of having granted an import permit between 1994 to 2000 of a thousand cigarettes per month to a notorious Swiss smuggler, Franco della Torre for a number of countries using Montenegro as a base. In 2003, Milo Djukanovic admitted that the trade in cigarettes had guaranteed a good share of the Montenegrin budget during the period of international sanctions against former Yugoslavia 1992-1999.
The father of the independence of Montenegro was elected head of government on 29th February last by 41 of the 80 members of parliament.
The Electoral Campaign
The main party in government, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), is experiencing some problems with one of its partners, the Social Democratic Party (SDP) – the government coalition is also supported by the Liberal Party and the Democratic Union of Albanians (DUA-UDSh). The Social-Democratic leader, Ranko Krivokapic had planned to become the first President elected in independent Montenegro and is threatening to stand in the presidential race or at least withdraw support from Filip Vujanovic on 6th April next. He has condemned the lack of co-operation on the part of the DPS within the government and has asked the outgoing president to "explain himself" to the management of his party.
As far as the opposition is concerned sympathizers are also justified in being disappointed in the failure of negotiations between the various parties that did not succeed in agreeing on a joint candidate. In 2007, the opposition did not agree on a joint strategy either in the face of the new Constitution which in the main they were all against. At the last minute the Movement for Change led by Nebojsa Medojevic came to an agreement with the government and facilitated the adoption of fundamental Law by Parliament thereby enabling pro-government forces to reach the two-thirds majority necessary for the adoption of the text. Opposition members then qualified Nebojsa Medojevic as the "Judas of the Montenegrin opposition."
In this presidential election the Socialist People's Party led by Novo Vujosevic suggested they unite with the Serbian List in favour of former Montenegrin Foreign Minister and former Ambassador in Italy for the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Miodrag Lekic, but the project was not successful.
The Movement for Change which repeats that Montenegro's future does not lie in attempts to undertake ethnic divisions prior to the independence referendum on 21st May 2006, stands as a modern, pro-European party that is founded on civic values. Created on 15th July 2006 by Nebojsa Medojevic, the party appointed its leader who is also Montenegro's most popular leader as presidential candidate on 26th December last. For his part the leader of the Serbian List, Andrija Mandic is standing as an opposition federator, i.e. of all of those who are against the Constitution thereby showing that he believes that the Movement for Change does not belong in his camp. Andrija Mandic has accused Nebojsa Medojevic of "aligning himself with the ruling power."
The high number of opposition candidates may discourage its supporters. The question remains about what opponents to Filip Vujanovic will do if he gets to the second round to face one or another of the candidates.
Indeed it is hard to imagine Andrija Mandic supporting Nebojsa Medojevic or the latter supporting the Serbian List leader.
The outgoing Head of State is presently in the best position in the polls with regard to winning the presidential election on 6th April next. The most recent poll credited him with 22.6% of the voting intentions in the first round, in comparison with 15.7% for Nebojsa Medojevic, 10.3% for Andrija Mandic and 5.5% for Srdjan Milic.
Results of the presidential election on 11th May 2003 in Montenegro
Turn out: 48.4%