Personal account from Montenegro
November 07, 2016
By Frederik Lade Broch-Lips and Mathias Albertsen
“Are you ready for Sunday? Yes, my gun is loaded”
For the first time, Silba has gathered an observation team to observe the parliamentary election in Montenegro.
The country is most famous for its green mountains, exciting casinos, charming old villages and beautiful beaches. Because of that Montenegro has grown to one of the fastest expanding tourist industries. But under the surface of this touristic haven a dramatic political scene also defines the country.
Montenegro translates into “Black Mountain”, which refers to thousands of peaks surrounding the landscape. But the political landscape in Montenegro has one peak that stands out above the rest. DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists) has won the last 10 elections and the leader of the party, Milo Djukanovic, has been in office for the last 25 years. In the shadows stands a divided opposition that tries to mobilize their forces into winning incumbency and thereby ending the long term reign of Djukanovic. The election result will have a huge impact on the future of Montenegro. The small country is on the edge of being included in the European Union, but they stand in front of a crossroad. Should the country follow the lead of Djukanovic leaning towards Western Europe and become member of NATO or should they lean towards the Pro-Serbian and Russian friendly discourse of the opposition?
It is almost impossible to avoid these divisions walking the streets of the capital, Podgorica. When crossing the big “Millennium Bridge” you cannot help but noticing the graffiti tag on one of the pillars saying “NATO fuck off” and Serbian flags waving at a party event for the main opposition party Democratic Front. The opposition has a loaded gun and is ready to fight Djukanovic and the rest of the establishment. But is this division going to have a real impact on the election at all? Through presentations and meetings with leading figures from local NGO’s, we were informed about ongoing election fraud and buying of votes. These problems with democracy are what makes the Silba observation mission relevant. The goal is not to prevent these problems now, but to observe and discover in order to inform and advise the country into making improvements of the democratic processes in the future.
During the election day we did not discover any major problems regarding election fraud, but this was in line with our expectations. The presence of international and domestic observers prompts a preventative impact on election officials, who are more careful when following the electoral procedures. Even though the observation team did not observe any major issues, a dramatic incidence defined the election day. At the border between Serbia and Montenegro 20 armed Serbs were arrested for planning an armed coup against the government and capture Milo Djukanovic. Despite this tension between the two fronts did not rise and the rest of the election day proceeded in an orderly manner.
When we got home to the hostel we followed the election result closely. Milo Djukanovic remained in office with his party, DPS, gaining 41% of the total votes and 36 out 81 seats in parliament. The second biggest party Democratic Front gained 20 % of the votes, thus keeping the position of the main opposition party. It turned out that the opposition fired with blanks against Djukanovic, who won his seventh consecutive election.