Montenegro: is the opposition able to govern the country?

In Montenegro's parliamentary elections, President Milo Đukanović's ruling DPS party scored its worst result since 1991 but remains the strongest party in the country, with around 35 percent of the vote. Opposition leader Zdravko Krivokapić of the pro-Serbian group For the Future of Montenegro (32.5 percent) is claiming victory. Commentators evaluate the opposition parties' chances of forming a government.

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A long-awaited chance with many pitfalls

A new coalition government would be on shaky ground, the Montenegrin portal comments:

“Whatever the new team looks like, the government will face economic, political and social challenges it can't be envied for. The former opposition has yearned for a chance to rule for a long time, and now it may be able to do just that. But it will have the smallest possible majority and will face a strong, well-organised opposition led by the DPS. And Đukanović will remain president, at least for the time being.”

hvg (HU) /

This victory has a whiff of transience to it

Đukanović will not accept defeat easily, suspects Balkans expert and former Hungarian ambassador to Serbia, József Pandur, in hvg:

“The opposition parties stand for very different policies. The big question is whether anti-Đukanović sentiment is strong enough to guarantee unity and a functioning government. It should also be noted that one seat is a slim majority indeed. There have already been examples in the Balkans of how a small advantage can quickly disappear. I can hardly imagine that in a place where MPs are bought and sold and where politicians have been known to be accident-prone, Đukanović will not be able to win over one or two MPs.”

Ukrajinska Prawda (UA) /

Foreign policy is open

The announcements by the opposition parties are highly contradictory, Ukrayinska Pravda notes:

“Among the winners of these elections are the radical pro-Serb forces who have promised to revoke Montenegro's Nato membership as well as the recognition of Kosovo, who reject sanctions against Russia and support the dominant position of the Serbian Orthodox Church. At the same time, the election winners declare that they will stick to the EU accession course. ... The new government probably won't initiate talks to leave Nato or rescind the recognition of Kosovo. But it may lift the sanctions against Russia within a very short period of time, and generally adopt a softer policy towards Russia.”

Delo (SI) /

Relations with neighbouring countries at risk

The elections in Montenegro were marked by uncertainty and the lack of clarity seems set to continue, Delo says:

“Although the opposition has declared victory, the path to a new government will be a long one. In the struggle for a parliamentary majority it cannot be ruled out that the party of Milo Đukanović's Socialists, which remains the country's strongest party despite its worst performance so far, will form the government. This does not change the fact that the 'father of the Montenegrin nation' is only one step away from defeat after three decades in power. ... A change of government could also worsen the situation of minorities, Bosniaks, Croats and Albanians, and thus cloud relations with Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Kosovo and Albania.”

Corriere della Sera (IT) /

Nato and EU ties at risk

After a change of government Montenegro could loosen its ties with the West, Corriere della Sera points out:

“The last soft autocrat in Western Europe tried to win using Lukashenka-style tactics. He bombarded the media outlets he controls (so almost all the media in the country) with propaganda and blamed Putin and all those who never forgave him for joining Nato in 2017 for his predictable defeat. All in vain. ... Because of its strategic location, this small piece of the Balkans plays a key role in the balance of power. The new majority, predominantly pro-Serbian and pro-Russian, has promised to remain committed to the EU and Nato. But there are some doubts. Montenegrins pray like Serbs and write like Russians: Will they think like Nato allies and Europeans?”

Večernji list (HR) /

Watch out for Vučić's long arm

Serbia and its president have too much influence in Montenegro, Večernji list warns:

Vučić only pretends to be European, and he uses this to pursue one end while in fact striving for a completely different one. This Serbian regime must be prevented from obstructing the European path of a neighbouring country after already blocking its own path. It would be bad for the stability of this region in general if Serbia, President Vučić and the Serbian Orthodox Church continue to think that they can build up a hegemonic position in the Balkans unhindered. Because they can't.”

Delowaja Stoliza (UA) /

The old spectre has returned

Journalist Natalia Ishchenko also expresses concern in Delovaya Stoliza:

“The greatest danger is that the spirit of a Greater Serbia, which seemed to have disappeared over the past 20 years since the Nato bombings of Yugoslavia, will be reactivated. ... Despite all the Euro enthusiasm and even simple optimism we have to admit: if a victory (a revenge?) for the 'Serbian world' in Montenegro really becomes reality, it is not just this small country that will become a zone of instability. The whole region will enter a new era of geopolitical turbulence with unpredictable consequences.”

Radio Kommersant FM (RU) /

Moscow needn't always fear democracy

Looking to Belarus, Radio Kommersant FM notes that free, democratic elections in other countries can also produce pro-Russian results:

“In countries where there is no entrenched anti-Russian sentiment, free elections may well bring to power forces willing to pursue a more benevolent and loyal policy towards Moscow than their predecessors. Forces who don't try to plot intrigues or stir up conflicts between Russia and the West, or accuse Russians of preparing a coup d'état, as Đukanović did four years ago - and as his Belarusian colleague did only recently. It may seem paradoxical, but sometimes the truth is: the more democracy, the better for Moscow.”

Frankfurter Rundschau (DE) /

It's up to the opposition now

According to the Frankfurter Rundschau the change of government is long overdue:

“Corruption, mafia dealings, rigged elections and abuse of power marked the decades-long era of Milo Đukanović. Even if the puppet master is still hoping for a post-election miracle in the counting of the votes or the coalition-building game, the results leave no room for doubt: a majority of Montenegrins have had enough of their long-time ruler. ... Whether the far from homogeneous opposition can actually succeed in paving the way for more democratic and better times in the midst of a severe economic crisis will depend primarily on its own members and its ability to cooperate and communicate.”

Népszava (HU) /

Relations with the EU becoming more uncertain

Népszava doubts that a new government led by Krivokapić will gain the trust of the West:

“The Đukanović government paved the way towards the EU, and the country became a Nato member in 2017. ... The opposition coalition, on the other hand, is unpredictable. In his victory speech, Krivokapić said nothing about his plans regarding Western integration. That was clearly no mere coincidence: his coalition is held together exclusively by the anti-Đukanović mood. While one of its flanks is extremely pro-western, green and liberal, the other is right-wing nationalist, focused on Belgrade and explicitly against the West and Nato. Krivokapić can hardly expect a smooth term in office.”

La Repubblica (IT) /

The long arm of the Church

La Repubblica examines the role of the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church, which in Montenegro competes with the Montenegrin Orthodox Church and backs opposition leader Zdravko Krivokapić:

“The religious issue became the main topic of the election campaign after the parliament passed a law last December that allows the state to confiscate monastery and church buildings if proof of ownership cannot be provided. A law which, according to opponents, directly targets the influential Serbian Orthodox Church, which took possession of almost all the property of the small Montenegrin Orthodox Church after the First World War.”