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 is to hold the 7th presidential election on 15 April 2018. The most relevant and interesting sections from a comprehensive analysis entitled “Montenegro 2018 presidential election: Minority communities and hackers to decide on the president of Montenegro?” are published below.
On 15 April 2018 the 7th presidential election will be held in Montenegro since the introduction of the multiparty system in this country.
About 530.000 voters will be eligible to give a vote to one of the seven candidates – a much higher number in comparison with the previous presidential election when only two candidates competed. The following candidates have submitted their candidacies: Milo Đukanović, Draginja Vuksanović, Mladen Bojanić, Marko Milačić, Hazbija Kalač, Vasilije Miličković and Dobrilo Dedeić.
In order to submit a candidacy for the president of Montenegro, the candidate must collect at least 7,933 voters' signatures.
The incumbent President of Montenegro Filip Vujanović, who was proposed by the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), has performed this function for three consecutive terms.
The upcoming presidential election in Montenegro will once again be marked by the clash between two main political concepts.
The recently held local election saw the victory of the currently leading party in the municipality of Ulcinj/Ulqin, while the opposition parties won in the municipality of Berane. Despite their victory in Berane, the local election showed again the deep clashes within the opposition parties: one part of the opposition is pro-Serbian and pro-Russian oriented and rather strongly influenced by Belgrade/Moscow, while the other part is composed of ethnic Montenegrins who have a different vision of Montenegro's future. The pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties have not managed to win the sympathy of minority communities whose votes will decisively influence the results of the upcoming presidential election.
With their activities these 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 coalition advocates the cancellation of Montenegro's recognition of the Republic of Kosovo. On the other side 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. This year's presidential election campaign may see some fierce hacker attacks that will aim to support certain opposition candidates and may thus influence the election results.
The IFIMES International Institute believes that the current opposition and its leaders cannot bring about any significant political changes in Montenegro. One part of the opposition still supports the incumbent government and therefore enjoys certain benefits.
While, officially, Montenegro is carrying out negotiations on EU accession and is even the leading state in gaining EU membership, the situation in this country is much more complex than it might seem at first sight. Numerous problems have accumulated over years while the government has artificially created the state of illusive prosperity. All this time the government was in the hands of DPS and its current coalition partners – the Bosniak Party (BS) and the Liberal Party (LP).
The upcoming presidential election reveals the insufficient representation of women in Montenegrin politics. For the first time since the disintegration of the Socialist Federative Republic of Yugoslavia (SFRJ) a woman is standing as a candidate at presidential election.
Draginja Vuksanović, who holds a doctorate degree in law, is the first female candidate for president in the history of Montenegro. She is a modern woman who strongly supports her positions on Montenegro's independence, implementation of European standards, accession to NATO and the EU, fight against high level corruption and organised crime and freedom of speech. Her candidacy was proposed by the opposition party of social democrats (SDP) and also supported by DEMOS led by Miodrag Lekić.
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. In this situation the election campaign will be mostly taking place between the opposition candidates themselves, instead of between the opposition candidates and Đukanović.
For many years Montenegrin society has been marked by deep splits which are characterised by the citizens' attitude for and against any changes. Therefore the level of radicalisation and polarisation will remain high also after the campaign and the election.
Montenegrin society is complex and heterogeneous in many aspects, which requires the state to pay greater attention to resolving the open issues of individual social groups. In recent years the state has reacted positively to resolving the open issues of the LGBT population. Like elsewhere in the region, the media in Montenegro are in an unenviable position. Journalists are often faced with threats and pressures, being deprived of their journalistic as well as fundamental human freedoms. After more than 14 years the assassination of Duško Jovanović, the founder and editor-in-chief of the opposition daily newspaper "Dan", still remains unresolved and unsanctioned.
Moreover, no systemic solution has been found yet for the position of minority communities. Mechanisms should be put in place to protect them from assimilation. This includes the establishment of new municipalities. The state should also pay more attention to resolving the issues of the Roma community.
Another open issue is the long standing dispute between the two main Orthodox churches – the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church – regarding the autocephaly of the latter. This issue also calls for decisive action since it may destabilise Montenegro in the long run. The newly elected president of Montenegro can significantly contribute to resolving this issue.
As in other parts of the region, the Montenegrin government still hasn't found appropriate ways to deal with crime and corruption nor challenges related to economic development. A part of the problem of fighting organised crime and corruption lies in the unharmonised activities of individual state institutions. High unemployment and investments in infrastructure – especially in large-scale infrastructure projects such as the Bar-Boljare motorway – can significantly contribute to reduction of unemployment.Thus a 70% growth in the construction sector was marked in the fourth quarter of 2017 due to investments in new construction and infrastructure projects.
With the border demarcation and ratification of agreement with Kosovo, Montenegro managed to legitimise 82 km2 of surface with rich water supplies (Bjeluša), which may represent a strong potential for future development of this part of the country. Demarcation of the border with Montenegro will not lead to the abolishment visas for Kosovo citizens, since the EU believes that Kosovo authorities will first need to focus on fighting crime and corruption if they want to achieve visa abolishment.
In 2017 Montenegro marked a 4.4% economic growth. The real growth rates in 2017 were 3.2% in the first quarter, 5.1% in the second quarter, 4.7% in the third quarter and 4.0% in the fourth quarter.
Montenegro has well developed but underutilised civil society organisations that represent a strong potential and stimulus for the country's accession to EU membership and can also provide strong civil control over the (in)appropriate functioning of 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.
Montenegro has the so called pro-Serbian and pro-Russian block of political parties that still oppose Montenegro's membership in NATO. The rhetoric and iconography used at protests reminds of the 1990s Balkan wars. This has reawakened some memories, especially among (numerous) minority communities which were the main victims of politics from early 1990s. The protests are financed mainly from abroad. The pro-Serbian and pro-Russian opposition parties have applied a completely wrong concept to overthrow Milo Đukanović (DPS) and the incumbent Montenegrin government. They can never succeed without the support of minority communities, but with their politics and approach the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties are pushing them more and more away.
Analysts believe that the upcoming presidential election in Montenegro will once again show the importance and influence of minority communities whose votes will decide the new president. During his previous terms of office in Montenegrin politics Milo Đukanović has established quite harmonious relations with all ethnic communities, which has won him their further political support. Another factor that will play an important role in the forthcoming election are hackers who will try to influence election results by supporting certain opposition candidates, mainly from the pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties. It is therefore of utmost importance to ensure fair election and IT protection from unauthorised activities and attacks by hacker teams which are already influencing the election campaign, while through their even stronger and more intensive cyber-attacks they are expected to spread enormous amounts of disinformation.
Ljubljana, 2 April 2018