Montenegro 2018 presidential election: Another attempt to revive FRY?

The International Institute for Middle-East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) in Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses events in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has prepared an analysis of the current political situation in Montenegro which has entered the final part of the campaign for the 7th presidential election scheduled for 15 April 2018. The most relevant and interesting sections from a comprehensive analysis entitled “Montenegro 2018 presidential election: Another attempt to revive FRY?” are published below.

Montenegro 2018 presidential election:

 

Another attempt to revive FRY [1]?

 

On 15 April 2018, presidential election will be held in Montenegro for the seventh time since the introduction of the multiparty system in this country and for the third time since its independence was proclaimed in 2006.

 

On the election Sunday, 532,599 voters will be eligible to give a vote to one of the seven candidates: ● Marko Milačić – True Montenegro ● Mladen Bojanić – supported by the Democratic Front, Democratic Montenegro, Socialist People's Party of Montenegro and Civic Movement United Reform Action(URA) ● Hazbija Kalač – the Justice and Reconciliation Party ● Vasilije Miličković – supported by a group of voters from the Civic Action and the Party of United Pensioners and Disabled ● Dobrilo Dedeić – the Serb Coalition ● Dr Draginja Vuksanović – Social Democratic Party of Montenegro ● Milo Đukanović – Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro.

For and against Montenegro

Although Montenegro proclaimed independence in 2006 based on the referendum, certain political circles in Serbia have still not accepted this geopolitical reality. Montenegro's statehood is often contested by the Greater Serbian nationalists, the pro-Serbian opposition in Montenegro and the Serbian Orthodox Church. We should not forget the influence of Russia which intensified its activities in Montenegro when the latter was in the final stage of the accession process for NATO membership.

 

The Albanian, Bosniak and Croat minority communities played an important role in all events prior to and after proclaiming Montenegro's independence. With their programmes and verbal nationalistic attacks and assaults against minorities, the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition parties are actually pushing them into Đukanović's hands.  Albanian and Bosniak political parties are aware that they can only build and strengthen their position in a strong and independent state of Montenegro being a full NATO and EU member.

 

Attempts have been made by certain circles to put Montenegro under strong Serbian and Russian influence. In order to realise this scenario they need their own presidential candidate. His election would enable to create the circumstances that would lead to early election and to eventual victory of pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties. Those activities are mainly financed from abroad with the aim to organise a referendum where Montenegro's independence and autonomy would be revoked, NATO membership withdrawn and the international recognition of the Republic of Kosovo annulled, although this is not feasible according to international law.

 

Vast efforts are therefore being made to prevent Milo Đukanović from winning in the first round of presidential election, since the eventual runoff would give those political actors more time to realise their plan.

 

Analysts have noted that the large number of presidential candidates – as much as seven in comparison with the previous 2013 presidential election when only two candidates competed – leads to the scattering of votes in order to prevent Đukanović’s victory in the first round. This means that a carefully planned strategy was prepared outside Montenegro in which some of the candidates were (un)knowingly involved. Under the present political situation the creation of tensions in Montenegro and the region suits Russia. It is still not completely clear whether the Social Democratic Party (SDP) was (un)consciously involved in this scenario, especially bearing in mind that it was once the state-forming political party that promoted anti-war politics, the idea of independence, NATO membership and the general pro-Western policy and positive changes in Montenegro.

A short and fair election campaign 

No presidential election campaign in Montenegro was so short and financially modest as this one.  The rhetoric was rather boring – the positions and political orientation of all candidates have been generally known for years.

 

Although strong words were exchanged between the candidates, the campaign can be generally assessed as within the limits of fair play.

 

The campaign lacked some innovative approaches, since most of the candidates only repeated what they have been saying for many years. Although they come from different political parties, in can be noticed that some enjoy (un)disguised support from aboard.

 

Nevertheless, analysts have noted some offensive statements during the campaign. One of them was that any voice won by Hazbija Kalač would, in case Đukanović does not win in the first round, benefit the Democratic Front candidate Mladen Bojanić – the pro-Russian politician who did not publicly distance himself from Nebojša Medojević's statement that “whoever gives a vote to Đukanović is the new poturica[2]”.

 

The votes of minority communities were and still are decisive for all Đukanović's victories and the victories of the civic options in Montenegro, notably bearing in mind the victory at the referenda on independence and NATO membership.

State-forming forces are stronger than anti-state forces

The opposition parties are divided by deep ideological and ethnic clashes. One part of the opposition is pro-Serbian and pro-Russian oriented and mostly strongly influenced by Belgrade/Moscow. Its main goal is to overthrow and eliminate from political life Milo Đukanović who has been the key politician in Montenegro for the past three decades.

 

The political concept of pro-Serbian and pro-Russian political parties is mainly based on disputing and negating Montenegro's statehood and supporting Serbia and Russia.

 

Nevertheless, all previous political experiences in Montenegro including the referendum on independence and various elections have shown that the state-forming forces always won a convincing victory over the anti-state forces.

Another attempt to revive FRY?

With their activities the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition parties have deterred other Montenegrin citizens – especially due to their (un)careful disputing of the present status of the state of Montenegro and their announcements that they would withdraw membership from NATO should they come to power. A large part of the opposition advocates the cancellation of Montenegro's recognition of the Republic of Kosovo. Eventual hacker attacks from abroad that will support certain opposition candidates will not have major influence on election results, since Montenegro has a different structure of voters than most other countries.

 

The country has deeply entered the European integration process with 30 open and three temporarily closed negotiation chapters, and in the meanwhile it has become a full NATO member.

One of Đukanović's foreign policy priorities ever since the late 1990's and the separation from the politics led by Slobodan Milošević's regime is based on building and promoting good neighbourly relations with all states in the region and openly supporting EU and NATO membership.

According to the analysts' assessments Milo Đukanović (DPS) is the favourite of the upcoming presidential election in Montenegro, bearing in mind that the disunited and heterogeneous opposition parties have not managed to provide one single candidate as a strong competitor to Đukanović.

 

Montenegro is facing the same transition problems that are present in other countries in the region. It still lacks appropriate systemic responses to crime, corruption and developmental challenges.  A part of the problem in fighting organised crime and corruption lays in the lack of compliance between the competent state institutions.

 

In June 2017 Montenegro became the 29th full member of NATO. However, NATO membership was marked with protests during which the protestors called for Serbia and Russia – this further reveals the involvement of certain states in Montenegrin internal affairs with the aim to destabilise this country.

 

The pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition parties have applied a completely wrong concept to overthrow Milo Đukanović and the incumbent Montenegrin government. This creates strong resistance among ethnic Montenegrins and minority communities who feel stigmatised, insulted and humiliated with such politics led by the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition parties. The upcoming presidential election will see another failed attempt to undermine the state of Montenegro and its independence and to revive the former Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY) in which Montenegro was subordinated and strongly influenced by Serbia and Russia. FRY should be regarded as a part of the history that cannot be repeated. After having gained NATO membership recently, Montenegro should look ahead to EU membership and deal with numerous challenges that it is facing. After all, this young country represents a strong factor of regional stability and a holder of European integration processes in the region.

 

Ljubljana, 13 April 2018      

                 

[1] FRY – Federal Republic of Yugoslavia

[2] Those who converted to Islam and adopted Turkish way of life in the Ottoman Empire.



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