02/03/2009 - Analysis
On 27th January the Montenegrin Parliament approved 42 votes in favour, 13 against and 9 abstentions its own dissolution thereby opening the way to early elections, one year before the end of its term in office. After the last general elections on 10th September 2006 the Montenegrin political parties agreed that new elections would be convened before the end of 2009.
Candidates running in the general elections have to register with the Electoral Commission before 4th March. On 29th March early local elections will also take place, notably in the towns of Zabljak, Tivat, Cetinje, Niksic and Budva.
The Political System
Montenegro has a monocameral Parliament comprising 81 MPs who are elected in one national constituency thanks to a proportional system according to the Hondt method. Each list has to win at least 3% of the votes cast to be represented in Parliament.
At present 13 political parties are represented in parliament:
- The Democratic Union of Socialists (DPS), Milo Djukanovic, the outgoing Prime Minister's party, which is allied to the Social Democratic Party led by Ranko Krivokapic. The two parties have 41 MPs;
- The Serb People's Party (SNS), led by Andrija Mandic, has 12 representatives;
- The People's Socialist Party (SNP), the People's Party (NS) and the Democratic Party (DSS), which were allies during the election on 10th September 2006 has 11 seats;
- The Movement for Changes (GZP) led by Nebojsa Medojevic has 11 seats;
- The Liberal Party (LP) and the Bosniak Party (BS) who were allies during the elections on 10th September 2006 have three MPs;
- The Democratic League of Montenegro and the Party of Democratic Prosperity have one seat;
- The Albanian Democratic Union (DUA-UDSh), has one seat;
- The Albanian Alternative (AA) has one seat.
For the last fifteen years Montenegro has been dominated by the Democratic Union of Socialists led by Milo Djukanovic, Prime Minister since 8th January 2003, and Filip Vujanovic former Prime Minister (1998-2002), elected President of the Republic on 11th May 2003 and re-elected on 6th April 2008.
The Electoral Campaign
The government led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, rallying the Democratic Union of Socialists and the Social Democratic Party led by Ranko Krivokapic justified these early general elections saying that it was to prepare Montenegro better for accession to the EU, a subject which forms a consensus within the political community. "Considering the numerous demands made of Montenegro for its access to the EU the government believes that this process has to be undertaken by the Parliament and the government over a full four year term in office," said Deputy Prime Minister Igor Luksic. The country decided to stand as candidate for the EU on 15th December 2008; this is a record time of 14 months after the signature of the Stabilisation and Association Agreement. European Enlargement Commissioner Olli Rehn said on 10th December that "great effort was required of Montenegro, notably with regard to the consolidation of its institutions and the rule of law." Hence Montenegro's candidature was vetoed by the Council of the European Union before the Commission even had time to give its opinion on the state of country's preparation. Several Member States, notably the Netherlands, Germany, Spain, France and Belgium were against the transfer of the case to the Permanent Representatives Committee (COREPER), comprising Member States' Ambassadors to the EU (permanent representatives) and chaired by the Member State ensuring the Presidency of the Council in view of it being submitted to the Council of Ministers. Usually membership candidatures are automatically transferred to the Council which invites the Commission to prepare its opinion, an operation which takes one year to complete on average.
The decision to convene the electorate and the reasons given by the government were rejected by the opposition parties. They say that the government wants to avoid facing the population's discontent that will evidently rise to the surface due to the economic crisis. "The government wants to organise elections as fast as possible because the effects of the economic crisis will make it harder for it to fulfil its obligations thereby reducing its chances of success," says Velizar Kaludjerovic of the People's Socialist Party. "The government is scared of the effects of the crisis at home and not only of those caused by the international turmoil. Accelerating European integration only takes third place," says Predrag Popovic, leader of the People's Party. "No one believes the reasons mentioned by the government. These are common knowledge. We are facing an extremely serious crisis which Montenegro is not the cause of and which is not simply the consequence of the international economic crisis but is that of the government's activities. This is why it wants elections as quick as possible, to avoid the effects of this crisis," declared Slaven Radunovic of the People's Party. "The early elections are a desperate act on the part of the ruling party," maintains Koca Pavlovic, spokesperson of the Movement for Changes who says that the State budget will be invalid on 1st April.
The election has come at a very bad time for the opposition parties. Indeed on 24th January the People's Party was turned into a new Party, New Democracy (NOVA), which was joined by the Northern League. In addition to this three MPs of the Movement for Changes (the party's former Vice-President, Goran Batricevic, Slavko Hrvacevic and Emin Durakovic) quit their party to form the Democratic Centre on 7th February, which claims to be the extension of the political programme of the NGO Movement for Change which gave rise to the Movement for Changes in 2006 and which would like to develop a "third way". "We are absolutely open to all democratic political parties, Europeans, citizens, and who are Montenegrin enough, not in the national sense of the word but in the State sense, to acknowledge Montenegro's independence. We are open to all parties which are ready to work for regional co-operation, which have a project to emerge from the economic crisis and which are attached to social justice," declared Goran Batricevic. The Democratic Centre leader said that he would not form an alliance before or after the election with the Democratic Union of Socialists even though he said that "there were no eternal friends or enemies in politics". "The transformation of a political party always leads to the disaffection of a certain number of its voters," analyses Professor Svetozar Jovicevic who goes as far as believing that the Democratic Union of Socialists, in power since 1991, may win the absolute majority of the seats in Parliament alone and will not have to form a coalition with the Social Democratic Party.
In addition to this internal disputes still occupy front stage in the relations between the opposition parties. The chairman of New Democracy Andrija Mandic, tried to form an electoral alliance with the People's Socialist party and the Movement for Changes led by Nebojsa Medojevic. This was in vain since Srdjan Milic, chair of the People's Socialist Party, declined the invitation because the Liberal Party and the Democratic Centre were not part of the alliance. On 18th February last these two parties decided to join forces in view of the elections on 29th March. The opposition parties asked for a change in the electoral law before the organisation of any more elections, a demand considered unacceptable by the ruling parties. "With its allies, the Social Democratic Party and the Muslim Party, the Democratic Union of Socialists might win the absolute majority in the elections on 29th March. The only chance for the opposition to impede the domination of the ruling party in a serious manner is to put a single list forward, which sounds like science-fiction," declared analyst Milos Besic.
Speculation with regard to the withdrawal of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic after the elections on 29th March has started up again recently. Although no one knows the share of truth in the rumours most political analysts agree that the present Finance Minister, Igor Luksic, appointed Deputy Prime Minister will in all likelihood be appointed as the successor to the outgoing Head of Government. The name of Branimir Gvozdenovic, a close colleague of Milo Djukanovic and the craftsman of privatisation, has also been mentioned.
Just one month before the election, the Democratic Union of Socialists led by outgoing Milo Djukanovic in power for the last 18 years is the main favourite. The real issue in this election is whether the party will succeed in winning the absolute majority or whether it will need the votes of the Social Democratic Party to form the next government coalition.
Source: Electoral Commission of Montenegro