Sep. 4, 2020
For the first time since 1991 in Montenegro, a small Balkan country on the Adriatic coast, power may change hands. Formally, the party of current President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović won parliamentary elections on August 30. Supporters of Milo Đukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro (DPS) eventually won slightly more than 35% of the vote.
However, the main opposition coalition “For the Future of Montenegro” won nearly the same amount. In addition, there are other opposition parties – the coalition “Peace is our nation”, which gained 12.53%, and the coalition “In Black and White” which received 5.53%. All of them are ready to form a ruling coalition, which may lead to the end of Djukanovich’s 30-year rule.
In a joint statement, the leaders of opposition called for the creation of an “expert government” and said they would work to change what they called “discriminatory laws,” including the Law on Religious Freedom. That law created the pretext for the creation of an independent from Serbian but uncanonical Orthodox Church, an idea supported by the leader of the country.
The resolution of the situation with the Law on Religious Freedom has been the main topic in the country since December last year and dominated the election campaign in 2020. Analysts agree that this issue largely decided the outcome of the election, as the law deepened the division among Montenegrins, who are mostly Orthodox Christians but differ in political affiliation.
Many objected to Montenegro’s NATO membership and maintained close ties with Belgrade and the Serbian Orthodox Church (SOC), which began a series of protests against the law that lasted several months.
Đukanović: a smuggler and mobster
The Anti-Church law seems likely to bury Đukanović ‘s regime, although he will remain in office for three years. Despite his despotic rule and the arrest of the main opposition leaders in 2016, Milo Đukanović is supported by leaders in the West for his loyalty to them.
It was Đukanović who secured Montenegro’s accession to NATO in 2017, after which the entire country was shaken by mass protests: half of Montenegrins were against joining the aggressive alliance. However, the authorities were able to suppress these demonstrations. Opposition leaders were thrown into prison on charges of organizing a coup, allegedly with the help of Russia.
A former Yugoslavian communist, he became the leader of Montenegro in 1991. Under his rule Montenegro, formally a part of Yugoslavia, was cut off from other ex-Yu countries by a customs and currency barrier (the monetary unit of Montenegro is the euro). On his initiative in 2006, a referendum was held, as a result of which Montenegro withdrew from the confederation with Serbia.
Đukanović ‘s 30 years in power caused no objections from either the EU, NATO or the US, as he conducted a completely pro-Western course. Moreover, the West also turned a blind eye to Đukanović ‘s outright criminal activities.
In 2003, the Italian prosecutor’s office accused Đukanović of links to organized crime, which was engaged in the illegal smuggling of cigarettes to Italy. The leader of Montenegro was then accused of direct association with the leader of the famous Italian Camorra – Paolo Savino.
The court, however, did not prosecute Đukanović, because as the leader of the independent state, he had immunity.
Đukanović was also accused of having links to the drug trade. Đukanović ‘s government once granted citizenship to internationally wanted Balkan drug lord Darko Sharic. Another drug lord – one of the heads of the Albanian drug mafia – Nasser Kelmendi – also took refuge in Montenegro for a long time. Montenegrin ports on the Adriatic were actively used by criminal groups with support from the West.
Numerous accusations and investigations have been leveled and subsequently suspended, in Italy, the US and a number of European countries. If Djukanovic is left without political immunity, he will be summoned to court and most likely receive a conviction. This is naturally why he is so accommodating and does exactly as his American patrons instruct him to.