Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) won the most seats in a parliamentary election on August 30 but may struggle to form a government.
According to Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMi), and NGO electoral watchdog in the country, the DPS, an ally of the country’s long-serving president Milo Đukanović, took 30 seats in the vote – its worst ever result – followed closely by the main opposition coalition, the For the Future of Montenegro, which might now be in a position to remove the ruling party if it teams up with two other opposition blocs.
The Peace is Our Nation list took 10 seats, while United Reform Action (URA) won four.
If confirmed by official results, this puts the three opposition groups on 41 seats: a majority in an 81-seat parliament.
Mr Đukanović was nevertheless in bullish mood after polls closed, claiming that his party, along with its “traditional coalition partners” (chiefly the minority parties and the Social Democrats) had won 40 parliament seats, and that he would wait for the final results to see who has taken the crucial 41st seat.
According to CeMi, the Bosniak Party won three seats, while the Albanian List and Albanian Coalition won a seat each. The Social Democrats won two seats, and the Social Democrats of Montenegro (SD) three.
The leader of For the Future of Montenegro Zdravko Krivokapić meanwhile declared the opposition victorious. Supporters in the Montenegrin capital Podgorica, as well as in Serbia’s capital Belgrade and Serb-populated regions of Kosovo celebrated the victory with fireworks and ostentatious displays of both Montenegrin and Serbian flags.
Mr Krivokapić said the priorities of the new government will to close the gap between rich and poor, new laws on the origin of property and lustration, and, most importantly, a new freedom of religion law.
The freedom of religion law has proven massively controversial in Montenegro and was the most polarising issue during the election campaign. According to the Serbian Orthodox Church, which enjoys a great deal of influence in the country, recent DPS legislation which allows the state to seize religious assets when their historical ownership cannot be proven was a pretext for the nationalisation of church property. Protests, led by church officials, erupted in Montenegro as soon as the law was adopted in December 2019.
“I know our partners will accept that this law needs to be repealed and a more equitable one made which will find the right balance between the church and the state, the best model that would fit the traditional confessions in Montenegro,” Mr Krivokapić said.
Aleksa Bečić, the leader of the Peace is Our Nation coalition said that Montenegro is now no longer a country that has never changed its government through an election. He also called upon the minority parties to join the opposition.
“Our hand is extended to the minority parties because they should be a part of the government,” he said.
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