International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East and the Balkans. IFIMES has analyzed the current developments in Montenegro with respect to the parliamentary elections that are scheduled to take place on 30 August 2020. We bring the most important and interesting excerpts from a comprehensive analysis titled “2020 Parliamentary Elections in Montenegro: End of Milo Đukanović's Era“:
The upcoming elections, scheduled to take place on 30 August 2020, will be the eleventh parliamentary elections since introduction of a multi-party system and the fifth since Montenegro declared independence. The electoral roll contains the names of 541,232 eligible voters. Montenegro has a proportional system in which the entire country is one electoral unit. The election threshold is 3%. Simultaneously with parliamentary elections, local elections will be held in Kotor, Budva, Andrijevica and Gusinje municipalities.
The IFIMES international institute published on 9 June 2020 an analysis on developments in Montenegro titled “2020 Montenegro: Noose is tightening around Milo Đukanović” (link: https://www.ifimes.org/ba/9829).
At the parliamentary elections that will take place on 30 August 2020, Montenegrin citizens will be able to choose between 12 election lists (six coalitions and six parties): ● “Resolutely for Montenegro - DPS - Milo Đukanović“ ● “For the future of Montenegro” –Democratic Front, Socialist People’s Party, Workers’ Party, True Montenegro, United Montenegro and non-partisan individuals. ● “Peace is our nation” - Democrats, Demos, Party of Pensioners, Disabled and Restitution, Civic Movement The New Left and Society for Research of Poliy and Political Theory ● “In Black and White” – Civic Movement URA, Civic Association CIVIS, Boka Forum, Party of Justice and Reconciliation and independent candidates ● Albanian Coalition “Now is the Time” - Democratic Forum, Forca, Civic Movement Perspective and Tuzi Union ● “Unanimously” – Democratic Union of Albanians, Democratic Party (DP) and Democratic Alliance in Montenegro ● “Strong Montenegro” – Social-Democratic Party ● “Social-democrats – Ivan Brajović – We Decide Consistently “ ● “Bosniak Party - Correctly- Rafet Husović“● Croat Civic Initiative – Wholeheartedly for Montenegro!“ ● Croat Reform Party ● “Snežana Jonica – Socialists of Montenegro – To live as Yugoslavs”.
Montenegro has traditionally been faced with problems, that is manipulations, related to the central electoral roll. Analysts warn of the anomaly that a country with a population of around 622,000 has no less than 541,232 registered voters. The number of population of age from 0 to 18 is in the area of 140,000. Hence, as the eligible voters are citizens of full age (541.232), if we add to the number of citizens of full age the number of citizens of age 0 to 18, then it appears that the population of Montenegro is almost 700,000. Nongovernmental organizations have detected thousands of phantom voters on the electoral roll, as well as voters who had been registered twice and deceased voters. Furthermore, thousands of voters will have difficulties exercising their voting right due to the unlawful decisions that had transferred them to other polling stations, as a result of what many will not be able to exercise their voting right. It was also established that in the municipalities near the border a number of persons who do not have a residence in Montenegro and should have already been removed from the electoral roll are still registered as voters.
The regime adopted modifications to the Law on Electoral Roll in order to fulfill the recommendation by OSCE/ODIHR and, allegedly, prevent abuse of data from the electoral roll, because the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has used excerpts from the electoral roll to record so-called “secured-votes” and voters who turned out, but also to put pressure and employ various models of vote-buying. The modifications to the law restricted public control of the electoral roll, due to what currently only the ruling DPS party, which also controls the Ministry of Internal Affairs, has full access to the central electoral roll.
Analysts warn of dubious mass issuing of (double) identification cards by the Ministry of Internal Affairs which are to be used at the upcoming elections to ensure additional votes of support to the ruling DPS. There is numerous evidence of such cases, including video recordings.
Milo Đukanović’s regime often boasts itself with interethnic (dis)harmony that prevails in Montenegro. Such assertions by the regime, just like many others, do not reflect the reality in this multiethnic country and are a subject of manipulations particularly designed for the international public.
It is common knowledge that almost 30% of the population (Serbs) is humiliated, disenfranchised and outcast from the social-political life, while around 20% of the population (Bosniaks and Albanians) are “hostages” of Đukanović’s regime, which uses several Bosniaks and Albanians and their families that enjoy the privileges of connections with the regime to create a false image of the level of integration of the two ethnic communities and in such a way deceive both the local and international public with respect to the alleged interethnic (dis)harmony in Montenegro. In fact, as the victims of Đukanović’s regime, in fear of threats the Bosniaks are forced to vote for their offender. Namely, there is a plethora of written evidence proving that as the then President of the Government of Montenegro Đukanović had participated in the work of the Supreme Defense Council of the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and was thus affiliated with war crimes and the crime of genocide committed in Srebrenica. Hence, a reasonable question to be asked is have the Bosniaks forgotten or do they wittingly elide the fact that Milo Đukanović was one of the closest associates of Slobodan Milošević (SPS) and has remained the only senior official from the war period who has still not been prosecuted. However, there is no statute of limitations on war crimes.
The story about alleged interethnic harmony in Montenegro is a humbug of Milo Đukanović’s regime because majority of citizens live in fear and are pressured to “accept” the story about alleged interethnic harmony.
Analysts believe it is important that at the upcoming elections citizens of Montenegro get united in their differences, democratically oppose without fear from the hardened regime headed by Milo Đukanović and with a pen in their hand topple the regime so that Montenegro can finally stop being a country in which there has been no change in power for 31 years already. That is why the upcoming elections are an opportunity for the citizens to release themselves from that fear. The example of North Macedonia is proof that it is possible to topple a regime with a pen in the hand at elections. Namely, at the parliamentary elections that took place in December 2016, Macedonian citizens, united in their differences and led by the Social-Democratic Alliance of Macedonia (SDSM) and Zoran Zaev (SDSM)toppled the regime of Nikola Gruevski (VMRO-DPMNE), which has many similarities with Đukanović’s regime. One should not forget the fact that it was with the assistance of Milo Đukanović’s regime that Nikola Gruevski fled North Macedonia via Montenegro. Hence, half the population of Montenegro lives in interethnic (dis)harmony in “Đukanović’s way”.
As the election campaign develops the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Milo Đukanović continue to fabricate adversaries and refer to alleged endangerment of the statehood of Montenegro by the so-called “great-Serbia” project, Serb Orthodox Church and Russia. Prof. Dr. Žarko Puhovski said: “One should not forget that in the meantime Montenegro (headed by Đukanović) begun to act in the same way as Austria did after World War II. Namely, it declared itself the first victim of Milošević, just as Austria declared itself the first victim of Hitler, but not also an accomplice in the war, which is what Austria and Montenegro were in these two respective cases”. Even today, Đukanović “sells” such a policy to Bosniaks and Albanians, not just in Montenegro.
The most seasoned Albanian politician, current President of Albania and a four-time Albanian Prime Minister, Ilir Meta (LSI), recently said the following with respect to the so-called great-Serbia and great-Albania projects “great-Serbia failed, and great-Albania is not possible.”
Analysts believe that it is necessary to expose Milo Đukanović’s regime, because Montenegro is a full-fledged NATO member, which means that Montenegro should apply the highest democratic standards, as well as cultivate and promote them. However, unfortunately, Montenegro is light-years away from them. It is a hoax that Serbia wants and can attack a state that is a member of the largest and strongest military alliance in the world. The Serb Orthodox Church is older than Montenegro, which means that it cannot constitute a foreign or distracting factor. Furthermore, since the establishment of NATO in 1949, Russia has not ever attacked a NATO member country. Therefore, fabrication of adversaries is a see-through constant of Đukanović’s regime.In fact, it was after the integration of Montenegro into NATO that his image in the region began to deteriorate.
It is obvious that Đukanović’s regime does not deal with real-life problems of the citizens or the disastrous economic situation, which is just partly a result of the Covid-19 pandemic. According to the Central Bank data, at the end of July 2020, 18,540 companies and entrepreneurs were blocked in Montenegro. The revenues from the tourism season will amount to only 10% of the last year’s season. The ration of active and inactive population is unfavorable and almost equalized, particularly after the Covid-19 pandemic.
So far, Đukanović’s regime remained in power with the assistance of satellite parties, which sometimes where a part of the ruling coalition and sometime his fictitious opposition.
The publicized public opinion polls forecast a high turnout at the upcoming elections, which is to exceed 70%. The balance of forces between the regime’s ruling block and the opposition is currently in favor of the opposition. Although the DPS has unlimited financial and other resources at its disposal it could win only in case of (pre)election manipulations and election fraud.
Five years ago, two political parties Social Democrats and the current SDP were created from one satellite party (SDP).
After the last elections the SD became a part of the ruling coalition and with only two representatives in the Montenegrin Parliament it got the position of the speaker of the Parliament and two ministerial positions, which is a clear indication of political corruption. On the other side, the SDP became an opposition party. However, SDP President Draginja Vuksanović Stanković is the wife of the Chief State Prosecutor Ivica Stanković, which reminds of the modus operandi used by Slobodan Milošević and his wife Mirjana Marković. Furthermore, two years ago Draginja Vuksanović Stanković was a candidate for the position of the President of Montenegro and, formally, was one of Milo Đukanović’s contestants. Chief State Prosecutor Stanković symbolizes the hated and hardened regime, while his wife Vuksanović Stanković is allegedly the symbol of democratic opposition. Such a model of division of roles is of no surprise as Đukanović was one of the closest associates and pupil of Milošević, whose “political school” actually applied such a model, that is scenario.
Researches have shown that the inconsistencies in the actions of the SDP, SD and the Liberal Party (LP), which is in coalition with the DPS, can lead to the political “death” of these satellite parties, because they are losing the support of voters and will probably not pass the election threshold.
Analysts believe that the Bosniak and Albanian parties will face a democratic and moral test if they wish to “wash off” the stain of being the collaborators and pillars of the regime. They have an opportunity to make a democratic turn, become future-oriented and terminate any further cooperation with the DPS. Since 1991 Đukanović has also developed special relations with the Republika Srpska leadership. At the time of the sanctions against the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY), Đukanović and his brother were the main war-time suppliers of Radovan Karadžić (SDS)and Ratko Mladić and supported the wartime machinery of the war criminals, which resulted in the genocide in Srebrenica.
It will not be easy for the Bosniaks and Albanians to make a turn in their policy because individuals from their parties are also involved in crimes and corruption, and some even in the war developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as Croatia, together with Đukanović.
The US State Department, European Union, Germany, Council of Europe, foreign embassies accredited in Montenegro, Freedom House, Transparency International, news agencies, etc. have all extended criticism of Milo Đukanović’s regime.
The report by US State Department, published in March 2020 on the human rights situation in Montenegro in 2019, once again criticized Đukanović’s regime for corruption and engagement of government officials in corrupt practices. It also stipulated that politicization of the state system provides fertile ground for corruption and accentuated political interference by Đukanović in media freedom. According to the Report of the US State Department, the unsolved physical attacks against journalists, political interference with the public broadcaster, smear campaigns carried out by pro-government tabloids, and unfair treatment and economic pressure from government ministries and agencies against independent and pro-opposition media remained a significant problem.Prior to the publication of the Report of the US State Department, Matthew Palmer, US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs and Special Envoy for the West Balkans appeared on the Montenegro Radio-TV Station (RTCG) and conveyed a strong warning “We would like to see successful legal proceedings against those who attacked journalists, including Olivera Lakić, who is an International ‘Woman of Courage’ Award winner. We would like to see depoliticization of the Council of your institution, the Montenegro Radio-TV Station “.
The path of Montenegro towards the EU was unstoppable, but is currently halted and blocked because of Đukanović. Pierre Mirel wrote an elaborate Report on the situation in Montenegro and proposed introduction of conditions for (sanctions against) Montenegro. Upon Đukanović’s departure, Montenegro will be integrated into the EU through a summarized procedure. The constant narrative that if the opposition, that is pro-Serb parties come to power, Montenegro will withdraw from NATO, which is the main election campaign thesis promoted by Đukanović and his Securitate – secret political police which lately is writing graffiti all over Montenegro in an attempt to artificially cause conflicts between Serbs and Bosniaks. Such a thesis is equal to the thesis that the US will withdraw from NATO. The thesis about the withdrawal of Montenegro from NATO if Đukanović and his DPS lose the elections is a formally and politically unsustainable thesis, particularly in the modern political and geopolitical relations. The constitution of Montenegro is crystal clear, and so are the undertaken international obligations stemming from membership in NATO.
Milo Đukanović has a “double mortgage”, because of his engagement in crimes and corruption, as well as war crimes. As a result, any initiative aimed at interconnecting the region, such as the “mini Schengen” initiative, which is the most important regional initiative in the past 30 years, comes under the attack of his regime. Economic prosperity does not suit the states that are, for various reasons, weak or corrupted, because economic interconnecting leads to rule of law, which the regime persistently wants to obstruct. The stumbling economy in Montenegro and corruption are an excellent example.
Milo Đukanović should have already been tried for war crimes before the tribunal in The Hague. However, there is no statute of limitations on war crimes. Justice is slow but will be achieved soon.
Analysts believe that Milo Đukanović could soon appear in The Hague as a defense witness in the trial of the current Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi. Namely, international sources are in possession of information that Đukanović will appear as Thaçi’s witness and remind that Đukanović should have appeared as a defense witness in the trial of one of the highest officials from Serbia before the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY) in The Haag, but he threatened the indictee’s family and the indictee later gave up on his request for Đukanović’s testimony. It is therefore reasonable to ask whether Đukanović will do the same in the Thaçi Case.
Information that Đukanović is already speaking about selling his property and ownership shares with foreigners indicates that he is trying to save the illegally acquired property. However, it is important to bear in mind that contracts on sale and/or transfer of such illegally acquired property and ownership shares can be declared null and void once the changes in power and democratization of Montenegro takes place. One should also not exclude the possibility that Milo Đukanović could seek political asylum in order to avoid prosecution, and two countries have already been identified as possible options.
Analysts believe that it is important to ensure peaceful transition of government in Montenegro, without endangering peace and stability, as that is important not just for Montenegro but also for the region. The fall of the oldest European regime, which has been in power for 31 years already, instills hope that prosperity of the West Balkans region is possible, which has not been the case so far. That is why it is important that political parties and coalitions, which consider themselves democratic and not affiliated with the regime, make a commitment before the elections that they will not enter into any coalition or arrangement with the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS). An encouraging fact in this respect is that individuals from Đukanović’s circle have already established cooperation with the foreign factor, which gives hope that the transition of government in Montenegro will pass peacefully and without violence. The end of Milo Đukanović’s era is inevitable and will bring freedom and prosperity to the citizens of Montenegro, the region, as well as the international community, because the scope of international crime of Đukanović’s regime involving high-tariff goods is such that it has significantly damaged the budgets of many countries.
Ljubljana/Washington/Podgorica, 18 August 2020
 IFIMES – International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies, based in Ljubljana, Slovenia, has Special Consultative status at ECOSOC/UN, New York, since 2018.