Political Crisis In Montenegro Is Accelerating

A Byzantine collection of political forces is threatening stability at a crucial time for the Western Balkan nation

14 December 2022

Jan Farfal

Marcin Król Fellow

Montenegro has been plunged into potentially its greatest political crisis yet, and it seems that all of the issues will need to be resolved in the upcoming presidential elections in 2023.

On Wednesday 7 December, the old-new parliamentary majority in Montenegro, comprising the winners of the 2020 elections changed the Law on the President of the Republic (Zakon o predsedniku republike), stripping the president of his power to give the Prime Minister a mandate in an attempt to resolve the constitutional crisis. This sparked major protests involving riots started by President Milo Đukanović’s supporters, which subsequently led to massive police interventions.

The Political Labyrinth of Montenegro

After the 2020 elections in Montenegro, President Milo Đukanović – who has been the absolute ruler of the country since 1990, longer than Alyaksandr Lukashenka in Belarus – lost his parliamentary majority and the opposition came to power. This opened up all the possible problems and issues within Montenegrin society and politics to such an extent that Montenegro finds itself truly at a crossroads today.

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Sińce Đukanović lost power, three successive governments have ensued. First, the Serbs in opposition formed a government under the leadership of Zdravko Krivokapić, but they required the support of Dritan Abazović, currently the most interesting person in Balkan politics and the “darling of the West”. Then, President Đukanović toppled that government and made his own return with Abazović no longer in a supporting role but serving as prime minister.

Shortly thereafter, PM Dritan Abazovic signed a landmark agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church, which infuriated the president once again and forced the collapse of the second post-2020 government. Currently, the parliamentary majority shared by Dritan Abazovic and the Serbian parties is not able to form a government since President Đukanović is refusing to give them a mandate.

Now, a third government – comprised similarly to the first (i.e., formed of Serb parties with the support of Abazović) but being led by Miodrag Lekić – is trying to rule without success. To add to the complexity, technically the government is still being headed by Abazovic as Lekić is being blocked by President Đukanović. The new amendment to the above-mentioned law will allow for Lekić to become prime minister, but it has also led to riots spurred on by supporters of President Đukanović. The situation remains volatile.

How Podgorica Functions

Nevertheless, a semi-official government in Montenegro continues with arrests related to an anti-corruption campaign of high officials that has so far included judges of the highest courts and most recently senior police officials. Those arrests are of critical importance since the arrested judges are needed for resolving the ongoing parliamentary crisis.

If the Balkan region is a complicated and contradictory part of Europe, then Montenegro is the most complicated and contradictory state in the Balkans. What is more, the current political crisis provides a unique insight into larger political outlooks in the region. Namely, through the political instability and frequent government changes over the last two years, one can observe all the major political processes: American and Russian influence, European integration, interstate Balkan relations, struggle against endemic corruption and continent-wide cocaine smuggling schemes, among others.

In this complex political vortex, the influence of great powers on the Montenegrin crisis is only adding to the current chaos, and the most major confrontation is expected to happen during next year’s presidential elections.

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This article has been prepared in the framework of a cooperation programme between major press titles in Central Europe led by Visegrad Insight at the Res Publica Foundation.

Jan Farfal

Marcin Król Fellow

Marcin Król Fellow 2022/2023 at Visegrad Insight and a Doctoral candidate in Area Studies (Russia and East Europe) at the Oxford School of Global and Area Studies. His project examines the ways in which émigré journals addressed their home societies behind the Iron Curtain. He is a Researcher in the project ‘Europe in a Changing World’, led by Professor Timothy Garton Ash and Professor Paul Betts, at the European Studies Center at the University of Oxford.

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