International Institute for Middle East and Balkan Studies (IFIMES) from Ljubljana, Slovenia, regularly analyses developments in the Middle East and the Balkans. On the occasion of the parliamentary elections scheduled to take place on 30 August 2020 in Montenegro, IFIMES analyzed the final phase of the election campaign in the country. We bring the most important and interesting excerpts from a comprehensive analysis titled “2020 Parliamentary Elections in Montenegro: Will EU recognize results of elections in Montenegro?”
Parliamentary elections in Montenegro are scheduled to take place on 30 August 2020. The electoral roll contains the names of 541,232 eligible voters. The ballots include 12 election lists (six coalitions and six parties). Montenegro has a proportional system in which the entire country is one electoral unit. At the elections the voters shall elect 81 representatives in the Montenegrin Parliament. The election threshold is 3%. Simultaneously with parliamentary elections, local elections will be held in the Kotor, Budva, Andrijevica and Gusinje municipalities.
The IFIMES international institute earlier published analyses of developments in Montenegro titled: “2020 Montenegro: End of Milo Đukanović’s Era”, link: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9881, “2020 Montenegro: Noose is tightening around Milo Đukanović”, link: www.ifimes.org/ba/9829, “2020 Western Balkans: Attempt at repeating history”, link: https://www.ifimes.org/en/9878.
The election campaign is being conducted in an atmosphere of unequal competition because the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has unlimited human and financial resources at its disposal and (ab)uses its multi-decade-long ruling position for the purposes of its election campaign.
Furthermore, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and its president Milo Đukanović promote on daily basis the story about alleged endangerment of the statehood of Montenegro by the so-called great-Serbia project, Serb Orthodox Church and Russia. It is important to emphasize that Montenegro is a NATO member and that nobody will attack it, as well as that with the departure of Milo Đukanović it will progress faster towards the EU. In fact, Montenegro and its citizens are most endangered by Milo Đukanović’s regime as while over the past 31 years it has constantly promised better standards of living and living conditions, in reality it has plundered and looted the country in every respect. At the same time, according to publicly available data, Milo Đukanović lumps together with the wealthiest presidents in the world. Although Montenegro is a NATO member, Russian agents are infiltrated in the security-intelligence-defense system. Furthermore, Montenegro is also economically tied to Russia, because 20% of companies are in Russian ownership (and 20% of companies are owned by citizens of Serbia), while China has control over the public finances through the loan it gave for construction of the highway. Namely, it controls the key investment, the Bar-Boljare highway, which can jeopardize the public finances of Montenegro. The construction of the highway has increased the foreign debt to above 70% of the gross domestic product. In fact, the Montenegro’s Government had embarked on this project despite the strong warnings from Brussels and Washington. Montenegro has constantly been criticized by the EU and US for the above listed facts and the western allies are now looking for a person and/or political option that would be able to stop the continuous political tensions in Montenegro and finally initiate a showdown with Milo Đukanović’s crimes, which are of international scale.
Prof.Dr. Žarko Puhovski offered an illustrative description of the war legacy and conduct of the regime in Montenegro when he 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 the Bosniaks and Albanians, not just in Montenegro- but they have finally seen through all Đukanović’s deceptions and falsehoods.
The issue of the canonically recognized Serb Orthodox Church and the unrecognized Montenegrin Orthodox Church is one of the central internal political issues in Montenegro.
The statement by Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomew, that he would not recognize the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and that the Serbian Orthodox Church was the only canonically recognized church in Montenegro was a clear signal to Đukanović, to pursue another scenario- which is the uniatization of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church. The canonical recognition of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church would be done through uniatization (Greek-Catholic Church), so the Montenegrin church would retain the “Eastern rite“, but its head would be the Bishop of Rome- the Pope. The Montenegrin Orthodox Church would be under the canonical jurisdiction of Vatican. In such a way, Đukanović would attempt to reclaim the lost favor of the West, and the Montenegrin Orthodox Church would ensure its canonical recognition. Hence, such a scenario would help Đukanović “ingratiate” himself to the West, particularly the Catholic Europe.
Analysts warn that so far the official Vatican has never denied the option that the Montenegrin Orthodox Church could become Uniate church under the auspices of the universal Roman Catholic Church. While the Americans are particularly sensitive to the issue of religious freedoms, which is one of the founding principles of the American society, the Montenegrin authorities treat this issue as an administrative/technocratic issue because the Democratic Party of Socialists gotten involved in the issue of establishment of the Montenegrin Orthodox Church, which is a global unicum. Specifically, to have a political party establish a church or a religious community.
Although Đukanović is officially in conflict with the Serb Orthodox Church, he had remained in contact and held clandestine meetings with the Metropolitan of Montenegro and Littoral Amfilohije Radović of the Serb Orthodox Church. He also sought support of official Belgrade and promised to modify the Law on freedom of religion after the elections. This does not come as a surprise because Đukanović plays more than one game and plays with everyone. Furthermore, his recent decision to send a new Montenegrin Ambassador to the Russian Federation and the message conveyed to the “brotherly Russia” on that occasion caused dismay in EU diplomatic circles. According to some information a major agreement has been made with Metropolitan Amfilohije in relation to the property of the Serb Orthodox Church in Montenegro.
The major agreement with Metropolitan Amfilohije is a prelude to majorization of other ethnic groups and there are already speculations about the position and future of ethnic minorities, particularly Bosniaks. Namely, according to some projections the number of Bosniaks, which Đukanović’s regime has artificially divided to Bosniaks, Muslims and Montenegrins of Islamic faith, should be reduced to 3% over a period of 20 to 30 years. Albanians, whose share in the population structure is declining, are in a similar situation. The process of montenegrization of the ethnically non-Montenegrin population, which could include the Serbs as well, is present.
The authorities in Montenegro opened the Montenegrin borders for tourists, allegedly, on 15 August 2020. Although the epidemiological situation is not at a satisfactory level (high level of Covid-19 epidemic). The tourist season is at a level of 10% of the last year’s. The true intention behind the decision of the government to open the borders is to bring to Montenegro additional voters from neighboring countries and through neighboring countries on the day of elections. These activities were preceded by issuing of additional identification cards for the new voters, on which there is material evidence and even video recordings.
The population of Montenegro is in the area of 622,000, while there are 540,026 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 years, 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 modifications to the law restricted public control of the electoral roll, due to what currently only the ruling DPS party, which also controls the Montenegro Ministry of Internal Affairs, has full access to the central electoral roll.
Analysts believe that the biggest responsibility for the central electoral roll rests with the Montenegro Ministry of Internal Affairs. The Ministry is headed by Mevludin Nuhodžić (DPS), who will have problems avoiding being held accountable for numerous manipulations with the electoral roll and the election process, as well as the fact that, together with the National Security Agency (ANB), the Montenegro Ministry of Internal Affairs is just a service provider for mafia-criminal structures. As Milo Đukanović’s regime has made all the necessary preparations for issuing of new temporary identification cards that are to be used at the elections and the arrival of additional voters to the country, it is necessary to ensure that opposition parties have their observers at the border crossings in order to establish the number and control arrival of additional voters. According to some estimates, there could be at least 50,000 of them.
Analysts believe that Milo Đukanović could soon appear in The Hague as a defense witness in the trial of Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi (PDK), who has been indicted for war crimes on Kosovo before the Kosovo Specialist Chambers and Specialist Prosecutor's Office (KSC-SPO). Namely, Thaçi is accused for a number of crimes against humanity and war crimes, including murder, enforced disappearance of persons, persecution and torture. The indictment stipulates that Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli (PDK) and the other charged suspects are criminally responsible for nearly 100 murders. The victims of criminal offenses stipulated in the indictment include hundreds of persons whose identity is known and who include Kosovo Albanians, Serbs, Roma and persons of other ethnicities, including political opponents. Đukanović is the prime witness, that is the most important witness- an insider, because he is the only senior official from former Yugoslavia, as the then President of the Montenegrin Government, who has not been indicted so far and has not appeared as a witness before the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY). Hence the success of the work of the KSC-SPO depends to a large extent on Đukanović’s insider testimony, which is why Đukanović is demonstrating reluctance, fear and panic. Milo Đukanović’s appearance before the tribunal in The Hague will finally expose his role in the key developments on the Balkans, including responsibility for the war crimes that had been committed.
Because of his war-time role and history, Đukanović is connected with the war crimes that were committed in Montenegro, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, as well as partly on Kosovo.
A comparison between Belarus and Montenegro offers an excellent illustration and analysis whether EU has double standards for Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko and Montenegro President Milo Đukanović (DPS), whose regime has been in power for 31 years in Montenegro. Furthermore, Đukanović, as the commander in chief one of the NATO armies, is being directly connected with the war crimes committed from 1991 to 1995, as well as (international) crime and corruption. His Defense Minister is being connected with the “White Eagles” (Beli orlovi) paramilitary unit, which committed numerous crimes during the wars in former Yugoslavia. At the same time, Montenegro has become a full-fledged member of NATO, which is the strongest military political alliance and attaches major importance to fulfillment of democratic standards. As a result, Đukanović is an “open issue” for NATO leadership because he seriously undermines the image and credibility of NATO, particularly in South East Europe.
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. According to the polls, the Democratic Party of Socialists can win 25 mandates the most and everything above that would be a result of election fraud.
Analysts pose the following question, will the EU recognize the results of parliamentary elections in Montenegro, which are to take place on 30 August 2020, and then convene an extraordinary summit of the EU, as it did in the case of presidential elections in Belarus, and act in line with the same analogy because of the rigged and irregular elections by Đukanović’s regime, because anything over 25 mandates would be an indication of election fraud.
Another parallel between the Belarus leader Lukashenko and Montenegro president Đukanović is related to their long “service” in top positions in their respective countries. However, the period of Đukanović’s regime is five years longer than Lukashenko’s and Lukashenko was not involved in commission of war crimes, unlike Đukanović.
Opening of the international investigation into the illegal drug trade and drug further complicates the position of Milo Đukanović and his regime, as in international circles he is dubbed “unit measurement for crime”.
Analysts believe that in case of election theft and staged victory of Milo Đukanović, that is the Democratic Party of Socialists, at the upcoming parliamentary elections, Montenegro would enter the most uncertain period in its history. Not just because the EU would maybe not recognize the elections, but also because, in the long run, continuation of the dictatorship and rule of Milo Đukanović’s regime would be a threat to peace and security in Europe.
Montenegrin citizens feel fear and fatigue of the 31-year-long and the longest regime in Europe. A change in power would mean a positive turning point for this smallest country on the Balkans, because it would speed up its integration into the EU, as well as relax the relations in the West Balkans region. The first day after the elections will reveal whether other political parties in Montenegro have the democratic capacity and are ready to abandon and refuse cooperation with the regime, that is the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
Ljubljana/Brussels/Washington/Podgorica, 27 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.
 The research conducted by the Center for Global Development from Washington identified Montenegro as one of the eight countries faced with the risk of not being able to service their public debt because of their projects related to China. The other seven countries are: Pakistan, Tajikistan, Kirgizstan Mongolia, Lao, Maldives and Djibouti. (link: https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/kina-crna-gora-auto-put/30144498.html, link: https://www.slobodnaevropa.org/a/bar-boljare-autoput-do-du%C5%BEni%C4%8Dkog-ropstva-/29435614.html ).
 President Milo Đukanović and the newly appointed Montenegro Ambassador to Russia Milorad Šćepanović agreed that with the aim of overcoming the current situation and modernizing its bilateral relations with Russia, Montenegro is ready to work on normalization and strengthening of these relations, in accordance with the long tradition of friendly relations. (link: http://rs.n1info.com/Region/a626915/Djukanovic-Crna-Gora-je-spremna-za-normalizaciju-i-jacanje-odnosa-sa-Rusijom.html ).
 Source: https://www.scp-ks.org/en/press-statement According to the reports, Hashim Thaçi and Kadri Veseli are believed to have carried out a secret campaign to overturn the law creating the Court and otherwise obstruct the work of the Court in an attempt to ensure that they do not face justice. By taking these actions, Thaçi and Veseli have put their personal interests ahead of the victims of their crimes, the rule of law, and all people of Kosovo.