20/03/2009 - D-7
494,289 Montenegrins are being called to ballot on 29th March in early general elections (the mandate was due to end in a year's time). Early local elections will be organised on the same day in the towns of Zabljak, Tivat, Cetinje, Niksic and Budva.
6 coalitions and 8 political parties are running for votes:
- the coalition "European Montenegro" formed by the Democratic Union of Socialists (DPS) of outgoing Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) led by Ranko Krivokapic, the Bosniak Party (BS) led by Rafet Husovic and Croatian Citizens' Initiative (HI);
- the coalition rallying the Liberal Party (LP) and the Democratic Centre (DC) led by Goran Batricevic;
- the coalition formed by the People's Party (NS) and the Serb Democratic Party (DSS);
- the coalition rallying the Serb National List (SSR) and the Serb Populist Party;
- the coalition of Albanian speaking parties: Democratic Alliance, Albanian Alternative (AA) and the citizens group of Tuzi;
- the coalition formed by the Democratic Bosnian Party and the Democratic Community of Muslim Bosnians;
- the People's Socialist Party (SNP) led by Srdjan Milic;
- the Movement for Changes (GZP) led by Nebojsa Medojevic;
- the Democratic Union of Albanians (DUA-UDSh);
- New Serb Democracy (NOVA) led by Andrija Mandic;
- the Patriotic Serb Party;
- the Democratic Prosperity Party;
- the Pensioners and Handicapped Party;
A controversy emerged with regard to the high number of parties running in the election on 29th March. Many believe that because of the electoral law, which grants 13,000 € to each party which runs in the elections without any consideration being taken for the number of votes the parties win, encourages candidates who are more interested in the money than the public debate.
All of the polls indicate that the Democratic Union of Socialists (DPS) in power for the last fifteen years will win on 29th March. According to Predrag Sekulic, political director of the DPs the party should win around 52% of the vote and take between 43 and 45 seats of the 81 available in Parliament (the present government coalition DPS-SDP holds 41). Although some analysts are forecasting that the party, which dominates the political arena, may win the elections alone, Milo Djukanovic has not deemed it wise to run this risk and has preferred to try and widen his electoral base – a somewhat logical wager during this time of international economic crisis.
"It is not impossible for the government coalition to grow, not necessarily by granting ministerial portfolio, i.e. the formal entry of another party into the coalition, but by other means. For example the most important positions may be offered in parliamentary administration or in various organisations that are close to the State, in diplomatic representation offices, international organisations, security structures, the army, administrative boards of state companies etc...
" analyses Srdjan Darmanovic, dean of the Political Science Faculty at the University of Podgorica. "I would not be surprised to see the Democratic Union of Socialists invite the Socialist People's Party to join it in the coalition after the elections because it is a party that has promoted ecumenism and unity with great fervour,
" maintains professor Svetozar Jovicevic, former member of the Movement for Change and now chairman of the political council of the Democratic Centre.
The opposition stands divided before the electorate. Srdjan Darmanovic believes that the opposition's chances are 'almost nil'. "Above all the parties will be fighting to re-position themselves on the new political scale in Montenegro,
" he said maintaining that the opposition parties had to understand that a total knock-out situation was not the only way to get into power and that it was time for them to plan to draw closer or to form a coalition with the ruling parties.
Nebojsa Medojevic, leader of the Movement for Change is accusing the Socialist People's Party (SNP) led by Srdjan Milic of causing the unification of the opposition forces to fail. For its part the Democratic Centre (a dissident of the Movement for Change created in February by Goran Batricevic) and the Liberal Party have succeeded in forming an electoral alliance for the elections on 29th March. On 24th January the Serb People's Party led by Andrija Mandic was transformed into a new party, New Serb Democracy. "New Serb Democracy has certainly lost with the departure of a good number of dissidents but I think that it still has a chance of maintaining a good position in Parliament,
" declared Srdjan Darmanovic, who doubts however that the Serb National List (SNL) can really establish itself in the country since radical parties have never convinced Montenegrin voters.
The Montenegrin government led by Milo Djukanovic justified the early general elections saying that preparations have to be made for Montenegro's candidature for EU membership – which finds consensus amongst the political classes. The country officialised its candidature on 15th December 2008 but this was vetoed by the Council of the EU before the Commission could even give its opinion on the country's state of preparedness. The European Commissioner for Enlargement Olli Rehn recalled on 10th March last that Member States should not delay the launch of the technical procedure. He said that a pause in enlargement would be a serious threat to the stabilisation of the Balkans for whom the promise of EU membership was "a vital motor driving forward reform and securing stability.
The most recent poll by CEDEM credits the European Montenegro Coalition with 51.2% of the vote. The Socialist People's Party (SNP) is due to win 16.8% of the vote, New Democracy 12% and the Movement for Change 6.3%. According to all polls the European Montenegro coalition is due to win easily on 29th March. Two years after the declaration of independence the opposition forces, which are more divided than in 2006, still have a long way to go before they represent a credible alternative in the eyes of the Montenegrin electorate.