09 Sep 2020, 17:01 PM

September 9, 2020 - The leaders of the three opposition coalitions, which won a majority in the August 30th parliamentary elections, presented today the Agreement on the principles on which the future government will rest, including cooperation with NATO, unquestionable recognition of Kosovo, and excluding changes to Montenegrin state symbols. 

The Agreement, signed by the leaders of the coalition "For the Future of Montenegro," "Peace is Our Nation" and "Black and White", Zdravko Krivokapic, Aleksa Becic, and Dritan Abazovic, announced that the new government in Montenegro:
  •     will responsibly implement all international obligations undertaken by the state, strengthen cooperation with NATO and commit to implementing all reforms necessary for Montenegro's full membership in the European Union;
  •     fully depoliticize key government institutions in an uncompromising fight against organized crime and corruption;
  •     respect the Constitution of Montenegro and will not launch initiatives to change the state flag, coat of arms, and anthem;
  •     will not initiate proceedings to withdraw recognition of Kosovo's independence;
  •     will not retaliate on political or any other grounds;
  •     will adopt and revise all laws in line with European standards, to integrate Montenegro into the EU as soon as possible,
  •     will allow minority parties to participate in government, whether they have parliamentary status or not.
According to the preliminary results of the State Election Commission, the three opposition coalitions won 41 seats. Black on White led by the United Reform Action of Dritan Abazović four, For the Future of Montenegro led by the Democratic Front 27 and Peace is Our Nation of Aleksa Bečić 10 seats. From the 81st parliamentary seat, Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists won 30 seats, their coalition partner the Social Democrats three, two Albanian lists two, the Bosniak Party three, and the opposition Social Democratic Party two seats.
At the presentation of the Agreement, Krivokapić stated that the course of the three coalitions will be pro-Montenegrin.
According to the Peace is our Nation coalition leader, Aleksa Bečić, this Agreement is the best response to creating an artificial crisis. He says that the new government will be conciliatory and pro-European.
"There won't be any initiatives to change state symbols. Our objective is to reinforce civil Montenegro. We are not going back to the past. No revanchism. However, we demand responsibility, work, and order. The Constitution of a new, democratic government is ahead of us. We want our citizens to live better," Bečić said.
Dritan Abazović firmly believes that this Agreement is the most significant historical achievement in the last decade.
"The new government will urgently address the economic situation in the country. An empty cash register is what we have. A fight against corruption and crime is what lies ahead. This is a new page in the political life of Montenegro. European Montenegro has won."  
Asked to comment on the fact that some members of the coalition "For the future of Montenegro" refuse to stand during the national anthem, Krivokapić said it was quite natural. "Personal feeling cannot be dominant in any way," he pointed out.
Abazović thinks the new government will be formed before the end of October. The "salvation government", as Krivokapić called it.
Bečić remarked that cooperation with national minorities is on a good footing and that their representatives will be part of the new government. "We have reached out to national minorities. We are establishing a government of all citizens. If anyone thinks that he will manage to protect themselves from what they were doing with the governing party using small trades, they are wrong," Abazović said.
Krivokapić added they "want full transparency of state authorities" while Abazović points out that this government should be everything that DPS never was.
Instead of the government of demagogy, we will have the government of economy, Krivokapić concluded.
06 Sep 2020, 20:42 PM
September 6, 2020 - Putting identity issues in the background and maintaining the state's foreign policy course are the obligations of the new authorities in Montenegro, said the Executive Director of the Politikon network, Jovana Marović, stating that overcoming program and ideological differences are one of the main challenges.
She said the new government would be elected after decades of one-party rule and that the tasks ahead would be challenging for any party or coalition.
"The new government will consist of three coalitions with significant differences, both programmatically and ideologically. Overcoming these differences will be one of the main challenges for the new government to achieve the goals they have set," Marovic told MINA.
As she stated, one of those goals is to accelerate the process of democratization and move the integration process out of the current deadlock.
Marovic said that Montenegro has been stagnant for several years, and in many areas is falling behind established parameters.
"The European Union (EU) has noted that there are elements of a captive state in Montenegro, while Freedom House has classified it as a hybrid regime. The economic situation with massive public debt is no better, with additional problems that arose from the crisis caused by coronavirus," said Marović.
She added that the new government must avoid clientelism and nepotism.
As Marovic stated, considering that so far all elections have been held with shortcomings in legislation and with a problematic voter list, these are problems that the new government will have to respond to for the next elections to be held in a democratic atmosphere with fair conditions.
"Putting identity issues in the background, maintaining the country's foreign policy course, and respecting everything written in the Constitution should be added to this palette. It should not be a challenge considering that these are the foundations of a democratic and pro-Western society. Still, suppose we return to the differences already mentioned between the parties - it will also be a challenge for the new government. Yet, at the same time, it is an obligation," Marovic said.
As she stated, the three coalitions' leaders agreed on the principles on which the new government should be based, and that is currently a reason for optimism.
"However, the coalition agreement should be more comprehensive and precise, while still basing itself on the agreed principles. Montenegro must fulfill the obligations arising from NATO membership and respect all international obligations and agreements it has signed," said Marovic.
She stressed that Montenegro must not back down from integration and efforts to become a full EU member.
"There are other, non-Western actors who are interested in Montenegro, and while in the economic sense we could talk about some shared interest, in the political sense, turning to these countries would not bring anything good," said Marovic.
Those countries, as she said, do not offer a framework for democratization, so their "mentoring" would mean moving away from the principles of liberal democracy, and Montenegro is already significantly behind EU countries in this area.
Marovic emphasized that democracy cannot be built without the change of government.
"And in that sense, it is positive that those who manage the processes will be different individuals. "The public now have proof that changes depend on them, and following that, they will know how to reward or punish the moves of the new government with their vote," concluded Marović.
Source: Vijesti
01 Sep 2020, 23:31 PM

September 1, 2020 - After the people decided in Sunday's elections that Milo Djukanovic's DPS should go into opposition, the first phase of the transition towards a government change is underway in Montenegro, marked by images that are not new when it comes to Montenegrin society, which has long been ruled by divisions on various grounds. It seems that now the people have united to remove the DPS, which has ruled the country for 30 years. Despite calls from political leaders to refrain from celebrations and provocations on any grounds and celebrate the election success with family and friends, some people have shown readiness to continue to emphasize their differences in the streets.

The outgoing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which rulled the country since 1991, links the electoral defeat to the Serbian Orthodox Church's influence and the Republic of Serbia, expressing fears that Montenegro could change its foreign policy course under the new government. At the same time, representatives of the three winning coalitions say their basic common principles are the rule of law, expert government, and continuing the EU accession process.

The winning coalitions that will form the new government have begun talks, informing citizens of the basic principles on which the future state administration will rest.

The holder of the list of the coalition "For the Future of Montenegro," Zdravko Krivokapic, expects agreements from the other two opposition lists, "Peace is our nation" and "Black On White," so that Montenegro can get a new Assembly and Government as soon as possible, maybe in three weeks. He said that "peace has no price and no one should be afraid that Montenegro will disappear."
Krivokapić added that Montenegro's European path is a priority and that an expert government is needed. He explains that it was his opinion even before he entered politics. It is the best solution because when it comes to the crisis - and Montenegro has severe problems - the best and most competent people can give the best answer.

On the other hand, Montenegrin President and DPS leader Milo Djukanovic conceded defeat in the election. Still, he placed Montenegrin citizens' electoral will in a foreign policy context, implying a possible turn from the West to Russia.

montenegro podgorica

Celebration after the victory of the opposition in the elections, Photo: Savo Prelević, Radio Free Europe

Rallies were organized in several cities last night to celebrate the election victory, which in places escalated into riots and clashes. While the outgoing government characterized those incidents as the expressions of Serbian nationalism, the new parliamentary majority called on their supporters to postpone the celebrations and stay in their homes, refraining from any outbursts. As they said, possible incidents help only the DPS in its intention to provoke street clashes that would delay its departure from power.

Today, on its official pages on social networks, the DPS invited its supporters to a rally planned September 6 on Independence Square in Podgorica under the slogan "Montenegro first of all". Later it was announced that the DPS distanced itself from the organization of the gathering, saying that the meeting was organized by so-called "patriotic organizations".

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Printscreen Youtube, Source: Vijesti

SEC: Election results

According to preliminary data from the State Election Commission (SEC), based on 100 percent of votes counted, the current opposition, defined through three electoral coalitions, will have 41 seats in the Parliament of Montenegro. On the other hand, the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) with its traditional partners will have 40 seats. Representatives of the three winning electoral lists also called on representatives of minority nations to join the new parliamentary majority.

According to the State Election Commission data, the DPS won 35.06 percent, i.e., 143,548 votes, in Sunday's elections, and the coalition "For the Future of Montenegro" 32.55 percent (133,267). "Peace is our nation" won 12.53 percent (51,297), and "Black On White" 5.53% (22,649).

The Social Democrats won 4.10 percent (16,769), the Bosniak Party 3.98 percent (16,286), the SDP - Strong Montenegro 3.14 percent (12,839), the Albanian List 1.58 percent (6,488), and the Albanian Coalition Unanimously 1,14 percent (4,675)", as published on the SEC website.

The Croatian Civic Initiative did not pass the census, winning 0.27 (1,115), and the Croatian Reform Party 0.13 percent, or 532 votes, leaving the Croatian people in Montenegro without their representative in the new assembly.

76.65 percent of registered voters voted in the elections, i.e., 413,954, of which 409,451 were valid ballots.

Three winning coalitions: Montenegro remains on the path to Euro-Atlantic integration

Yesterday, a meeting was held between the leaders of the winning coalitions, "For the future of Montenegro," "Peace is our nation," and "Black On White" - Zdravko Krivokapic, Aleksa Becic, and Dritan Abazovic. They will constitute the future Montenegrin government and deliver the electoral will of the citizens.

The three leaders very quickly agreed on several principles on which the future government will rest. 

  • The new democratic government will responsibly implement all international obligations.
  • The new democratic government will implement all necessary reforms for Montenegro to join the European Union as soon as possible.
  • The winning coalitions agreed that the new, democratic government would be constituted by cadres who are experts in specific fields, regardless of their political, religious, national, or other characteristics.
  • The new government will be fully committed to respecting the Constitution and enforcing the law, with amendments to all discriminatory laws and bylaws, including the Law on Freedom of Religion.

The three leaders are extending their hands to representatives of minorities with the desire to together build a more beautiful and prosperous future of Montenegro, came the announcement after the meeting of the new parliamentary majority's leaders.

Leaders of the new parliamentary majority call on their supporters to stay home 

"Due to verified information that a significant number of paid provocateurs are trying to provoke incidents and unpleasant events, both in Podgorica and in other cities in Montenegro, we invite citizens to return to their homes and continue celebrating there. We must not allow any excuse for the outgoing regime to refute the undeniable results of the elections and the people's will," said the leader of the coalition For the Future of Montenegro, Zdravko Krivokapic.

Krivokapić said that peace has no price and that no one should be afraid that Montenegro will disappear. On his official Facebook page, he again asked people not to take to the streets, and announced that he would form a government in three weeks.

montenegro for the future krivokapic
"For the future of Montenegro" leader, Dr. Zdravko Krivokapić

On the occasion of last night's events in several Montenegrin cities, the Black on White coalition leader, Dritan Abazovic, also reacted. "Every kind of violence or provocation from any side casts a shadow over the election victory in which corruption and organized crime are defeated. That is why I ask you to refrain from that and celebrate in your homes in a dignified way," Abazovic said.

"As never before, it is necessary to preserve peace, interethnic, and interreligious harmony. Please do not allow us to jeopardize the historical victory through our irresponsibility or that of planted individuals. Montenegro is the land of us all, so let's protect each other. Civic Montenegro has no alternative! Now we need wisdom; there will be time to celebrate,"- concluded Abazović, emphasizing that there are no compromises with Montenegro's national interests. "Montenegro will not become either Serbian Sparta or Greater Albania," he said.

He said that Montenegro will develop as a civil state and that the condition of the platform around which the Black On White coalition has gathered is an expert government.

montenegro dritan ura

"Black on White" Coalition Leader, Dr. Dritan Abazović, Source: Civic Movement URA

"The announcement of the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro, which has so far arrested children, the elderly and priests for allegedly violating the NKT measures, to organize a rally on September 6, is a transparent attempt to raise tensions and cause riots that only benefit them as the outgoing government. They are trying to deepen the divisions, hatred, and quarrels they have generated in the last 30 years, said the representative of the coalition "Peace is our nation" and the leader of the Democrats, Aleksa Becic.

"Gentlemen from the top of the DPS, the NKT you lead has banned public gatherings. But, since you are known as people who trample on Montenegro, its laws and its Constitution for personal interests, and now for personal frustrations, we must remind you that the votes have been counted. The election results are official, and that there is no need for a new count at any party rallies. Show that you have at least a shred of dignity towards the honorable people who voted for you and accept you scored well below the previous opposition's election result," stated Bečić.

He called on the Police Directorate to ban mass gatherings directed by the DPS and required by any party, "so that we can immediately start working on reconciliation of all. In Montenegro, there must be no winners or losers among the citizens. Corruption, crime, quarrels, and the mafia are defeated in Montenegro, not the voters."

People in Montenegro want peace; they want harmony, unity, and progress, said Aleksa Bečić.

montenegro Aleksa Becic

"Peace is Our Nation" Coalition Leader, Aleksa Becic, Source: mondo.me

Milo Đukanović admits defeat, he "sews" the success of the opposition to the Serbian Orthodox Church and the authorities in Belgrade

The President of Montenegro and the DPS, Milo Đukanović, said for "Newsmax Adria" that in Montenegro and the region, two approaches were opposed - a pro-Western course on the one hand and a backward nationalist one on the other, now awakened in Montenegro.

"The incidents did not surprise anyone, the celebration even less. There is always a reason to celebrate, but that celebration implies a civilized attitude towards other citizens and the need to preserve Montenegro's stability. Last night we witnessed an outburst of intolerance, aggression, primitivism who think differently, "Djukanovic said.

When it comes to forming a government, Djukanovic said, "we will soon expect the outcome and that we will receive an offer to form a government from those who will have 41 seats in parliament."

Djukanovic sees the reasons for his party's failure to retain power partly in the dissatisfaction of citizens with some policies and the manipulations of the church and official Belgrade over the Law on Freedom of Religion.

"President Vučić and the current policy of Serbia have shown very problematic intentions. The first is that they want to interfere in another state's internal political life, and the second is to try to revitalize the policy of Greater Serbian nationalism in the region. Both are very wrong and very destructive," said Djukanovic.

He said that the assumptions that the DPS would defend the government by all means, were not correct.

"Even today, the DPS is a force that will try to keep Montenegro on the European path. I believe that in the bloc for Europe that will be formed in the parliament, we will stand for our government's political heritage," said Djukanovic.

He said that Montenegro has a European future and that he hopes that Montenegro will reach it.

monteengro milo savo prelevic

DPS Leader, Milo Đukanović, President of Montenegro, Photo by Savo Prelević, Vijesti

European Commission on elections and post-election atmosphere in Montenegro

"On August 30, Montenegro held parliamentary elections and local elections in five municipalities, according to an electoral, legislative framework that is mostly unchanged from previous elections, in the challenging context of the COVID-19 pandemic. The elections were peaceful and competitive, with a high turnout, monitored by local and international observers accredited by the State Election Commission, European Commissioner for Neighborhood Policy and Enlargement Negotiations Oliver Varhelj, and EU High Representative Josep Borel said in a statement by the EU delegation to Montenegro.

Preliminary findings and conclusions from international observers from the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly emphasize that the elections were conducted transparently and efficiently. They also note the highly polarized debate on church and national identity issues and some concerns for the ruling party's inappropriate advantage and unbalanced media coverage.

Following the publication of the final OSCE / ODIHR report and recommendations, all political actors and relevant institutions should engage in a transparent, determined, and inclusive dialogue on implementing these recommendations to overcome long-standing electoral shortcomings well before the next elections.

"We now expect the Constitution of a new parliament and the formation of a new government that will continue Montenegro's stable path towards the EU. Montenegro has made significant progress in its EU accession process. The months ahead must be used to deepen and accelerate political and economic reforms, especially the rule of law, with the next key milestone being meeting the provisional criteria for Chapters 23 and 24 in the rule of law," Varhelji said.

The European Union is fully committed to providing further support to Montenegro in the EU integration process and economic recovery after the crisis caused by the COVID-19 virus, including through the forthcoming Economic and Investment Plan for the Western Balkans.

"Freedom of assembly, association and expression are fundamental rights of the European Union (EU), which should be exercised without disturbing public health and with full respect for the rule of law and public order and peace," the European Commission (EC) said, commenting on the announced gathering "Montenegro First of All."

"We are closely following the political developments towards the announcement of the final results of the elections held on August 30 in Montenegro. In that context, we expect the Constitution of a new parliament and the formation of a new government that will continue Montenegro's stable path to the EU." A European Commission spokeswoman Ana Pisonero Hernandez told Vijesti, answering questions regarding the DPS' invitation to gather on Sunday, in high health and safety risk conditions.

The US Embassy congratulated Montenegro's citizens, acknowledged the OSCE findings, and called for peace and tolerance

In Podgorica today, the US Embassy welcomed the conclusions of the OSCE / ODIHR International Election Observation Mission on the parliamentary elections in Montenegro.

"We congratulate Montenegro's citizens on holding peaceful, participatory elections with the participation of more than 76% of the electorate, despite the COVID-19 pandemic," reads the message published on the FB page of the US Embassy.

The US Ambassador to Montenegro warned that all parties must act peacefully and avoid violence in the post-election days.

"I am concerned about reports of violence in Montenegro," said HPP Judy Rising Reinke.

"Montenegro is recognized for its tolerance and inclusiveness. The calm we saw on election day should prevail. All sides must act peacefully and avoid violence. Dialogue and the protection of minorities are the keys to democracy," Rising Reinke said on Twitter.

Source: Vijesti

31 Aug 2020, 21:52 PM


Meeting between Krivokapić, Bečić and Abazović: "These are the four principles of the future Government"

In addition, they stated that they extend their hand to representatives of minorities with a desire to together build a more beautiful and prosperous future for Montenegro.

August 31, 2020 - A meeting was held today between coalition leaders Zdravko Krivokapić, Aleksa Bečić i Dritan Abazović, representing "For the Future of Montenegro", "Peace is Our Nation" and "Black and White", which will constitute the future Government of Montenegro and deliver the electoral will of citizens.

According to the three leaders, they very quickly agreed on several principles which will serve as the basis for the future government.

"The first principle that has been agreed is that the new democratic government will responsibly implement all international obligations. Second, that the new democratic government will implement all necessary reforms in order for Montenegro to join the European Union as soon as possible. Third, that the new democratic government be highly skilled, constituted of experts in specific fields, regardless of their political, religious, national or any other characteristics. Fourth, the new government will be fully committed to respecting the Constitution and law enforcement, with amendments, supplements and revision of all discriminatory laws and bylaws, including the Law on Freedom of Religion," the statement said.

They said that, in addition, they extend their hand to representatives of minorities with a desire to together build a more beautiful and prosperous future for Montenegro.



31 Aug 2020, 12:38 PM
August 31, 2020 - Judging by the preliminary results of yesterday's elections, Milo Djukanovic's DPS will be moving to the opposition parliamentary benches for the first time since the introduction of the multi-party system in Montenegro, which overthrew the autocratic regime that ruled the country for almost 30 years. Yesterday, the DPS also lost power in Kotor, Tivat, and Budva, while in Andrijevica and Gusinje, they managed to achieve results based on which they will form the government there for the next four years.

Preliminary results of the State Election Commission

The State Election Commission announced the preliminary results of the parliamentary elections based on 98.55 percent of the processed sample, according to which the Democratic Party of Socialists won 35.12 percent or 141,767 votes, and the coalition For the Future of Montenegro 32.52 percent (131,333 votes).
The Coalition Peace is Our Nation won 12.55 percent (50,672), Black on White 5.57 (22,499), Social Democrats 4.09 (16,524), Bosniak Party 3.81 (15,387), SDP - Strong Montenegro 3.14 (12,674), Albanian List 1.61 (6,485) , and the Albanian Coalition Unanimously 1.16 per cent (4,675).
The Croatian Civic Initiative won 0.27 (1,101), and the Croatian Reform Party 0.13 percent, or 525 votes, and according to these results of the SEC, they did not win any seats.

CEMI: Three opposition coalitions can form a government

The three opposition coalitions in Montenegro will most likely have 41 of the 81 seats in the Montenegrin parliament and will be able to form a government, Zlatko Vujovic of the Montenegrin Monitoring Center (CEMI) said on Sunday night.
"Za Budućnost Crne Gore" ("For the future of Montenegro"), "Crno Na Bijelo" ("Black on White"), and Mir Je Naša Nacija ("Peace is our nation"), which announced cooperation after the parliamentary elections, will have at least 41 mandates.
The results show that the party "Odlučno Za Crnu Goru! DPS - Milo Đukanović" has 30 seats, and "For the Future of Montenegro" 27 seats.
"Peace is our nation" has won 10 seats, "Black on White" four seats, SD and the Bosniak Party three seats, SDP two seats, and "Albanian List - Genci Nimanbegu, Nick Djelosaj" and "Albanian Coalition" Unanimously" won one seat each.
Croats will be left without a mandate in the Montenegrin parliament, after results based on two lists, the Croatian Civic Initiative and the Croatian Reform Party.
The opposition coalition "For the Future of Montenegro" leader, Zdravko Krivokapic, declared victory for the "three opposition coalitions."
"We offer a hand of reconciliation, and we offer all national parties to approach the winner, not because we need anyone, but because we cannot build Montenegro any other way," Krivokapic said.
He called on all supporters to stay in their homes and not take to the streets to celebrate the victory.
In Montenegro's parliamentary elections, the right to vote was exercised by 409,880 citizens, or 75.9 percent of the total number of voters, which is 2 percent more than in the 2016 elections.

Djukanovic: DPS have 40 mandates with traditional coalition partners

The leader of the Democratic Party of Socialists and the President of Montenegro, Milo Djukanovic, said that together with the traditional coalition partners, the DPS has a total of 40 mandates.
He added that he would wait for the State Election Commission's final results, which will be a "law that we will unconditionally respect" for the DPS.
"During its overall existence on the political scene, the DPS has built a civil party profile, which fights for a multiethnic society and a European value system. We think that we have made a step forward in previous years, that Montenegro has become a beacon in the Western Balkans, and I hope that it will remain so and that Montenegro will remain a stable state. "

CEMI- Preliminary results of local elections

According to data from the Center for Monitoring and Research (CeMI), in Budva's local elections, based on 51.8 percent of processed polling stations, the electoral list "Marko Bato Carevic - For the Future of Budva" won 39.2 percent. "For Budva For Montenegro - DPS" Milo Đukanović "31.9 percent, and the list" Dragan Krapović - Budva is our nation" 18.7 percent.
The electoral list "URA for all citizens of Budva - Black and White" won 3.7 percent, "SDP - Strong Budva!" 3.5 percent, and "Nova Budva - Ilija Gigovic" 2.6 percent.
In the local elections in Kotor, based on 76.9 percent of results processed, Lista Za Kotor! For Montenegro! Milo Đukanović won 31.4 percent of the votes, followed by "Vladimir Jokić - Kotor is our nation-Democratic Montenegro" with 23.8 percent, and the list "For the Future of Kotor" with 22.9 percent.
4.9 percent of voters voted for the Civic Movement URA "Patriotic and Civil - Black and White." The list of SDP Dr. Ivan Ilic - "Jak Kotor" 4.4 percent, and "For Liberal Kotor - Andrija Pura Popovic - Liberal Party" were supported by 4,1 percent of Kotor's citizens.
Social Democrats - Dr. Andrija Lompar - "We decide, consistently for Kotor" won 3.9 percent, the list "Dr. Branko Baco Ivanovic - Socialists" 3.4 percent and the Croatian Civic Initiative Kotor, HGI - "With all my heart for Kotor!" 1.9 percent of the vote.
In the local elections in Tivat, based on 53 percent of votes processed, the list Narod Pobjeđuje won 41.5 percent, followed by the list Zbog Tivta, Za Tivcane - DPS Milo Djukanovic with 31.7 percent. The "Social Democrats - Ivan Brajovic - Tivat must do better" won 7.7 percent, while 6.7 percent of voters voted for "Bokeški forum - People of Boka know", HGI gained 5.3 percent of support in Tivat. "SDP - Let's Defend the City" won 4 percent of the vote and "Goran Bozovic - Honestly and responsibly for a better Tivat" 3.2 percent.
In the local elections in Andrijevica, based on 48 percent of votes processed the coalition "For Andrijevica! For Montenegro! Milo Đukanović DPS" won 51.2%, "For the future of Andrijevica - SNP - NSD" 40.7 percent, Aleksa Bečić - Miodrag Lekić - "Peace is our nation" - Democrats - Democratic Montenegro - Demos 8.7 percent.
In the local elections in Gusinje, based on 30 percent of processed polling stations, "For Gusinje! For Montenegro! DPS-Milo Đukanović" won 41.4 percent. "Social Democrats Ivan Brajović- We decide consistently for Gusinje" 23.3 percent, Democratic Alliance of Albanians 16.9 percent, Bosniak Party-Liberal Party "Right for Gusinje" Rafet Husović BS-LP 12.3 percent, "Social Democratic Party of Montenegro SDP-Dr. Elvis Omeragic-Strong Gusinje!" 4.1 percent, the "Socialist People's Party of Montenegro-Gusinje" 1.5 percent.
Source: CEMI, SEC 
30 Aug 2020, 15:27 PM
August 30, 2020 - Parliamentary elections are being held in Montenegro today, the eleventh since the introduction of the multiparty system in Montenegro, and the fifth since the restoration of independence in 2006, in which six coalitions and five political parties are participating.
Five hundred forty thousand twenty-six (540,026) citizens have the right to vote. The parliamentary elections are monitored by 2,089 observers, of whom 265 are foreign observers. There are 1,217 polling stations in Montenegro, which are open from 7 am to 8 pm. Today, local elections are being held in Budva, Kotor, Tivat, Andrijevica, and Gusinje.

SEC: 51.51% of citizens voted, without significant irregularities

In the parliamentary and local elections in five municipalities in Montenegro, 278,151 voters, or 51.51 percent voted by 1 pm, the State Election Commission (SEC) announced. As SEC President Aleksa Ivanovic said, Municipal Election Commissions (MECs) did not report major irregularities during the election process. Everything, as he said, is mostly resolved as it happens.
Ivanovic said that the SEC is familiar with issues related to the operation of electronic identification devices. As he pointed out, these are being resolved in communication with the SEC, the MEC, and the Ministry of Internal Affairs.
"The SNP Nikšić Municipal Board reported to the SEC that at polling stations 108, 118 and 105, polling boards are not allowing authorized representatives and their deputies to monitor the postal-based election process. We have discussed these and similar dilemmas in recent days. One of the opinions we have prepared and published is that the SEC recommends that the commissioners' team for postal voting is composed in a parity manner of representatives of the government and the opposition to improve confidence in the election process further.

Election turnout to 1 pm:

Andrijevica: out of 4106 registered voters, 1766 or 43.01% voted
Bar: enrolled 39376, 21578 or 54,80% voted
Berane: 23729 enrolled, 14546 or 61.30% voted
Bijelo Polje: 39913 enrolled, 21972 or 55.05% voted
Budva: 18062 enrolled, 8489 or 47% voted
Cetinje: 13766 enrolled, 6635 or 48.22% voted
Danilovgrad: 13095 enrolled, 7202 or 55% voted
Gusinje: 4607 enrolled, 1229 or 26.68% voted
Herceg Novi: 25485 enrolled, 14256 or 55.94% voted
Kolašin: 6319 enrolled, 3564 or 56.4% voted
Kotor: 18478 enrolled, 7450 or 40.32% voted
Mojkovac: 6891 enrolled, 4704 or 68.26% voted
Nikšić: 58342 enrolled, 33681 or 57.73% voted
Petnjica: 6198 enrolled, 1697 or 27.38% voted
Plav: 9202 enrolled, 3724 or 40.47% voted
Plužine: 2436 enrolled, 1544 or 63.38% voted
Pljevlja: 25394 entered, 16506 or 65% voted
Podgorica: 152404 entered, 78107 or 51.25% voted
Rožaje: 22511 enrolled, 8034 or 35.69% voted
Šavnik: 1616 enrolled, 1105 or 68.38% voted
Tivat: 11797 enrolled, 5663 or 48% voted
Tuzi: 12142 enrolled, 5050 or 47.59% voted
Ulcinj: 20376 enrolled, 7543 or 37.02% voted
Žabljak: 3082 enrolled, 1783 or 57.85% voted
UIKS: 699 enrolled, 343 or 49.07% voted
 Earlier today, Ivanovic said that the MECs did not report any irregularities at the polling stations.
"Except for polling station number 29, Elementary school "Ilino Brdo" in Pljevlja. At this polling station, voting will be extended until 9:15 pm," Ivanovic said.
The President of the State Election Commission (SEC), Aleksa Ivanović, said at the first press conference that, according to the Municipal Election Commissions' information, polling stations were opened on time, except for polling station number 29, Ilino Brdo Elementary School in Pljevlja.
"According to the information obtained by the Municipal Election Commissions, polling stations were opened on time, except for polling station number 29, Elementary school "Ilino Brdo" in Pljevlja, which was not open until 8 am due to the existence of propaganda material at a distance of fewer than 100 meters from the polling station." said Ivanovic.
The Municipal Election Commission of Pljevlja, as he said, is working on resolving that issue, and voting at that polling station will be extended, according to the procedure.
Ivanovic also said that the Operational Room of the State Election Commission received several calls from the polling boards to solve a printer problem connected to the device for electronic identification of voters.
"Problems are being resolved in cooperation with the Ministry of the Interior and the Municipal Election Commissions. At polling stations where it is not possible to solve the problem according to the procedure, polling boards will switch to voters' visual identification," Ivanovic said.
He called on all voters in Croja Gora to patiently express their political commitment in a peaceful atmosphere.

CEMI: Over 400 irregularities reported for Parliamentary and Local Elections

A total of 54.1% of voters voted by 1 pm, i.e., 33.4% more than in 2016, CEMI announced. So far, CeMI's legal team has received more than 400 reports of irregularities, significantly more than in previous years.
54.4 percent of voters voted in Podgorica, 48.6 percent in the north, and 57.2 percent in the south.
According to the data of CeMI observers from the field at the polling stations, many citizens are violating the NCT's recommendations on keeping physical distance, especially when it comes to waiting in line in front of the polling station.
CeMI PR coordinator Maja Bjelic said that 400 reports of non-compliance with election rules had been received.
"The Chairman is announcing the names and surnames of the voters and their ordinal number, which grossly violates the secrecy of the vote. Such conduct is a violation of Article 69 of the Law on Election of Councilors and Deputies," said Bjelic.
Observers noted insufficient consistency in applying National Coordination Team for Infectious Diseases' measures and SEC technical recommendations to reduce the risk of COVID-19.
Loud voices were heard at several polling stations, as well as the use of mobile phones.
CEMI observers reported an irregularity at the polling station Dom Vojske Crne Gore - Music Center, where a book with voters' names was briefly taken out of the building where the voting is taking place.
As she said, there were reports of mass violations of the rules on visual identification of voters at some polling stations when it comes to irregularities.
 "Namely, the observers of CEMI, but also a large number of citizens, reported violations of Article 68 of the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies and the SEC recommendations. The violation is of the nature that that the polling boards are not requiring the removal of the protective medical mask for visual identification of the voters, which potentially enables voting with someone else's identification document. "Loud utterance of names and surnames of voters by members of polling station staff was noticed during the identification of voters, which is contrary to the provisions of the Law," said Bjelic.
In Podgorica and Danilovgrad, voters were observed photographing the ballots and not folding the voting slip to place it in the ballot box.
 "The polling board in the Ulcinj elementary school" Pistula "is not ensuring monitoring of the election process by an authorized observer of CeMI. In this way, the provision of Article 111d of the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies has been violated," CEMI announced on Twitter.

Parties also point out election irregularities

Apart from CEMI and CDT, irregularities were pointed out by political parties.
Democratic Montenegro claims that some DPS activists monitor the turnout and record it in a parallel list, as well as that some individuals, as they say, require their colleagues to contact them when they go to the polls.
The Democrats announced that the vice president of the Democrats and the candidate for the deputy of the coalition "Peace is our nation," Vladimir Martinović, has been arrested and is in the police station. 
Martinović, as they claim, was detained because of the video he published, which allegedly shows Grujica Matović monitoring the turnout at 10 meters from the polling station and recording it in a parallel list.
The Coalition Crno Na Bijelo (Black on White) considers that the Police Administration's decision on the assignment of police officers to work tasks in other municipalities, which prevents them from exercising their right to vote, is inadmissible.
"The Black on White Coalition supports the Police Directorate officers who raised their voices against such a decision, wanting to exercise their constitutionally guaranteed right and vote," the statement said.
After that, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Montenegro, Mevludin Nuhodžić, announced that all police officers would be enabled to exercise their right to vote.
The civic movement URA reported that near the polling station 25 in Cetinje "Chess Club Cetinje," there was propaganda material by the DPS, which appeared overnight.
"URA demands that the Communal Police sanction the DPS for pasting propaganda material near the polling station," the statement said.
CEMI has 1355 accredited observers.
The project to monitor the parliamentary and local elections was made possible by the British Embassy in Podgorica, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of the Netherlands and the Kingdom of Norway in Belgrade.
CEMI's observation mission has 1,355 accredited observers. CEMI observers have been deployed at polling stations throughout Montenegro.
23 Aug 2020, 23:46 PM
The State Election Commission (SEC) has fulfilled its legal and other obligations, and everything is ready for the elections on August 30, stated its president, Aleksa Ivanović.
He said that the SEC has carried out all activities prescribed by the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies and the Calendar of Election Activities.
"We will continue to work in this way until the end of the election process. Based on this, it can be concluded that everything is ready for the elections," Ivanovic told the MINA agency.
Answering the question of what he expects from the election day, and how everything will work considering the coronavirus epidemic, he recalled that the SEC has adopted the Technical Recommendations for epidemiological protection during elections.
"This essentially means that if all persons participating in the election process adhere to the measures, wear masks, gloves, and use disinfectant, the election day will take place according to measures to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus," stated Ivanović.
Ivanovic said that the recording and editing of educational material for the polling board members had been completed.
"The broadcasting phase of the information will follow. It is also planned that the material will be available on the website," Ivanovic said.
When asked whether all dilemmas regarding postal voting had been resolved, Ivanovic said the Constitutional Court is deciding on that issue.
Six coalitions and five political parties are running in the parliamentary elections in Montenegro.
Five hundred and forty thousand and twenty-six (540,026) citizens have the right to vote. There are 1,217 polling stations in Montenegro, the same number as for the previous elections.
The upcoming parliamentary elections will be the eleventh since the introduction of the multi-party system in Montenegro, and the fifth since independence.

CCE on the number of citizens with voting right announced by SEC: The numbers are interesting, aren't they?

The Center for Civic Education (CCE) has compared several official data sets from the competent institutions ahead of the parliamentary elections scheduled for August 30.
The CCE recalled that according to the last census, Montenegro has 620,029 inhabitants, and according to Monstat's projection for 2019, that number is currently 622,028 inhabitants.
Of that number, 68,025 are students in primary schools, 27,447 in secondary schools, and 23,080 children are included in the preschool system.
"The numbers are interesting, aren't they?" The CCE put the issue to the public for consideration.
Source: Vijesti
07 Aug 2020, 22:28 PM

August 7, 2020 - The Center for Civic Education (CGO-CCE) has expressed great concern over the Technical Recommendations for the Epidemiological Protection of Voters During Elections, adopted by the State Election Commission (SEC) yesterday, reports CGO-CCE program assistant, Damir Šuljević.

Technical recommendations adopted by SEC at yesterday's session - main provisions

At the session of the State Election Commission, a document entitled "Technical recommendations for epidemiological protection of voters during elections" was adopted by the National Coordination Body, the Institute of Public Health and the SEC, after many hours of preparation.
The goal of these recommendations, as it was announced, is to protect the health of the public and all participants in the election process.
Basic measures that apply to all participants in the election process:
1. Mandatory hand disinfection before entering the polling station and during the voting process;
2. Compulsory wearing of a mask at the polling station, except when establishing the identity of voters;
3. Maintaining the prescribed physical distance before, during, and after visiting the polling station.
Hand disinfection should be carried out before and after voting.
The protective mask is to be removed by the voter for a short time to verify their identity (with all other persons in the room wearing masks) and then, after hand disinfection, placed back the face. Voting is to be carried out while wearing a face cover.  Hand disinfection is performed after the mask is placed back over the face. 
Voters who have been placed in self-isolation will be allowed to vote by post, following the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies, the Rules on Postal Voting, and general counter- COVID-19 provisions.
Persons who have been placed in institutional quarantine by decision of the health and sanitary inspection can vote if the quarantine facility is located in the municipality where the voter resides, i.e., where he is registered on the voter list, following the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies, the Rules on Postal Voting and application of epidemiological recommendations.
Patients with COVID-19 infection who are in hospital will not be able to exercise their right to vote.

CGO-CCE: SEC's Recommendations Unconstitutional, Unclear, Contradictory and Unenforceable

As explained by the CCE, the SEC has not passed legal provisions that enable citizens to exercise the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution and, at the same time, ensure explicit election norms so that the election day passes with minimal epidemiological risk.

"It is devastating that the SEC worked for almost a month on a document containing only three pages of text that include many technical and spelling errors. This document remains inherently vague and, most importantly, unconstitutional. This document indicates in the title that it is a technical. However, the first part prescribes obligations, yet there are no apparent sanctions for violations, which is contrary to the letter of the law. Such a stunt makes the legal nature of this act unclear because it is not known whether they are recommendations or obligations," explains Šuljevic.

The proposed voting by post for persons in self-isolation or quarantine does not follow the provisions of the Law on Election of Councilors and Deputies and the SEC Rules on Postal Voting.

"More precisely, the specific position of persons in quarantine and self-isolation cannot be subsumed under the situations described by the law and the rules, even when under home or hospital treatment, which the SEC members presumably had in mind. Specifically, these persons are in a situation that is not given a medical diagnosis, neither do they show the presence of any disease. Still, (their situation) is a consequence of the competent state authority's decision as a measure to combat infectious diseases. Also, the planned postal voting for quarantined persons is technically tricky. The SEC Rules provide that one person may be authorized to apply for a maximum of one voter, except in the case of voters from the same household. That means that the number of people placed in quarantine requires almost or an equal amount of authorized persons to apply on their behalf, which, due to the limited contact between quarantined persons and their families, makes this idea absurd," the statement goes on to explain.

As Suljević points out, the epidemiological recommendations are also contradictory, unclear, and incomplete, and they do not respond to the generally known challenges that arice when calling elections.

"For example, it is recommended that a minimum distance of two meters be provided in front of the voter identification station. It neglects to mention that the voter must hand over the ID card to the polling station committee members, sign the excerpt from the voter list, and separate the control ballot from the ballot paper, etc. Also, it is prescribed that hand disinfection is performed before and after voting. In one paragraph of the document, it is prescribed that the voter disinfects hands after identification and then returns their mask to the face. In the second paragraph, hand disinfection is performed after the mask is replaced. Due to this unclear style, it remains very vague as to whether the voter disinfects their hands two, three, or four times at the polling station," they add.

As Šuljević mentions, these technical recommendations make it impossible for persons in quarantine outside the area of ​​the municipality where they reside to vote. He points out that this restriction is contrary to other general acts passed by the SEC. It also brings an "unprecedented situation" of denying the right to vote guaranteed by the Constitution by technical recommendations because the Constitution prescribes the right to vote as general and equal to all citizens.

"CGO-CCE will submit to the Constitutional Court an initiative to review the constitutionality of the SEC's technical recommendations, and the latter must react promptly, bearing in mind that the election day is approaching. Also, the CCE calls on the SEC to continue work on this document and use the time until the elections to adopt constitutional, precise, and concrete instructions to enable the safe conduct of elections," the CGO-CCE statement concluded.

State Election Commission: recommendations follow the Constitution in part 

Citizens with the right to vote, and who will be hospitalized on the day of the elections on August 30 due to coronavirus infection, as well as those in quarantine outside their place of residence, will not be able to exercise their right to vote, the State Election Commission unanimously stated. 
We are aware, sais spokesman Mersudin Dautović, that this is not in line with the constitutionally guaranteed right, but due to the epidemiological risk such a decision had to be made.
"The goal of the recommendations is to protect the health of the citizens of Montenegro, i.e. voters and all other participants in the election process," Dautovic told TVCG.
05 Aug 2020, 22:51 PM
August 5, 2020 - Six coalitions and six political parties have submitted lists for participation in the parliamentary elections in Montenegro, announced for August 30. The deadline for submitting electoral lists expired at midnight.
The Democratic Party of Socialists will appear in a coalition with the Liberal Party, and the list entitled "Decisively for Montenegro! DPS - Milo Đukanović ", will be led by the Deputy President of the party, current PM Duško Marković.
The coalition "For the Future of Montenegro" includes the Democratic Front (DF), the Socialist People's Party (SNP), the Workers' Party (RP), Real Crna Gora, United Montenegro (UCG), and independents. The holder of the list is Professor of the Faculty of Mechanical Engineering, Zdravko Krivokapić.
The coalition of Democrats (DCG), Demos, the Party of Pensioners with Disabilities and Restitution, the Civic Movement New Left, and the Society for the Research of Politics and Political Theory will run in the elections together, with the slogan "Peace is our nation". First on the list is the President of the Democrats, Aleksa Bečić.
The coalition gathered around the "Black and White" platform, consists of the Civic Movement (GP) URA, the CIVIS Citizens' Union, the Bokelian Forum (BF), the Justice and Reconciliation Party and independent intellectuals. The leader of GP URA, Dritan Abazović, is the holder of the list, reports Mina.
The Albanian coalition, consisting of the Democratic Forum, Forca, the Civic Movement Perspective, and the Tuzi Union, will run in the elections under "Now Is The Time". Nick Djelosaj leads the list.
The Democratic Union of Albanians, the Democratic Party (DP), and the Democratic Alliance in Montenegro are members of the Albanian coalition "Unanimously", and the holder of the list is Fatmir Đeka.
The Social Democratic Party participates independently in the elections under the slogan "Strong Montenegro", and President Draginja Vuksanović Stanković leads the list.
The list of Social Democrats, led by the President of the party Ivan Brajović, is running in the elections with the slogan "Social Democrats - Ivan Brajović - We decide CONSISTENTLY".
The Bosniak Party is participating in the elections under the slogan "Bosniak Party-Correct-Rafet Husovic", and first on the list is MP Ervin Ibrahimovic.
The Croatian Citizens' Initiative submitted the list "HGI. With all our heart for Montenegro!", Headed by the party President Adrijan Vuksanović.
The holder of the Croatian Reform Party's electoral list is the Director of Tivat Airport, Radovan Marić.
The Socialists of Montenegro submitted the list for the parliamentary elections - "Snezana Jonica - Socialists of Montenegro - Let us live as Yugoslavs", headed by the President of the party Snezana Jonica.
541,232 citizens have the right to vote in Montenegro. In comparison with the presidential elections, held on April 15, 2018, the number of voters has increased by about 8.6 thousand.
The parliamentary elections on August 30 will be the eleventh since the introduction of the multi-party system in Montenegro, and the fifth since the restoration of independence.
01 Aug 2020, 16:50 PM
August 1, 2020 - The State Election Commission (SEC) has sent draft recommendations for the safe conduct of elections to the National Coordination Body for Infectious Diseases (NKT). There is still no official information on the NCB's position on this draft.
The President of the State Election Commission, Aleksa Ivanović, said on that occasion that the Commission is waiting for the NKT's opinion before they start drafting the final epidemiological instruction for the safe conduct of the elections.
The agreement for the SEC to provide the proposal for epidemiological instructions was reached at the Collegium of the President of the Assembly. The meeting, attended by representatives of the NCT, the SEC, and NGOs was held on July 15.
The draft version was prepared based on the joint work of the working group for the preparation of elections in the conditions of the coronavirus epidemic and comparative experiences from recent elections in other countries.
The rules provide for mandatory hand disinfection before entering the polling station and during the voting process. If a voter refuses to disinfect his/her hands, he/she cannot be denied the right to vote, but after the voting of that person, thorough cleaning of the space he/she used must be performed. A mask should be worn at the polling station, except when establishing identity, and also one's own ballpoint pen should be used to vote and sign the list.
Voters will be required to take their body temperature at home before leaving for the polling station. If it is higher than 37.2 ° C, they should contact their chosen doctor by phone. Those with symptoms of the disease, who have not been given a self-isolation measure or quarantine, can vote. But in addition to the mask, they must also wear gloves. Voters in self-isolation will vote under special conditions, exclusively in front of the apartment or front door of the house.
Voting by covid-positive patients in hospital presents an unacceptable epidemiological risk, due to the fact that these are "red zones" in which the stay of untrained and improperly trained staff is a high risk. Voters with coronavirus infection will vote with the help of another person who, upon their authorization, will fill out the ballot.
Members of polling stations will undergo specialized, epidemiological training during regular training on their duties. The training will be organized using online platforms or providing appointments on television. The training cannot be attended by more than 50 people, who are all obliged to wear masks during the training and adhere to general prevention measures.
Source: State Election Commision dik.co.me
01 Aug 2020, 16:07 PM

August 1, 2020 - Montenegro's power games between church and state may be about to create a Balkan explosion - this was the title given to Gawain Towler's comment published on July 31 in the UK broadsheet The Telegraph. Towler visited Montenegro last month, and his general conclusion is that "the state-sponsored persecution of the Serbian church in this scrap of Adriatic paradise could soon see mass civil unrest."

Gawain Towler served as Director of Communications for the Brexit Party until December 2019, and was previously Head of Press for the Europe of Freedom and Democracy Group in the European Parliament (UKIP). A former journalist, he has had papers and articles published on European and International Development by the Centre for Policy Studies and elsewhere.

The Telegraph, July 31, 2020

Author: Gawain Towler

The email arrived in my inbox, breathlessly claiming that the tiny Balkan nation of Montenegro is facing a, “state-sponsored campaign of persecution of Christians in the country and the demolition of their Church, one of the oldest in Europe”.

My interest piqued, partly because the very name is redolent of Ruritania; partly because the founder of my school in 1897, one Lex Devine, was half Montenegrin, whose habit of hiding in trees when the creditors came round populated my schoolboy imagination. Mostly, because it highlighted an article from Newsweek from June, co-authored by Steve Baker and Tim Farron, calling for Nato sanctions on the tiny ex-principality for the reasons above.

That these two, diametric opposite MPs were singing from the same song-sheet raised an eyebrow. In recent days negotiations between the Government and the Serbian Orthodox Church have broken down completely. These centre on a row between the Government of 30 years, led by former communist leader, hardman Milo Dukanovic and the church.

Today it is the only civil society focus of opposition to the Government. The epicentre of the dispute is the legal status of property owned by the church within December’s Religious Toleration legislation. The split is bluntly visible.

The leader of the church is the Metropolitan bishop of Montenegro and the Littoral, Amfilohije Radovic. A Serbian nationalist with a fine line in bloodcurdling curses who flings out excommunications with added malice and an interesting view of people to entertain, including Radovan Karadic, and the notorious warlord Arkan. His views on homosexual rights would raise hairs in Tunbridge Wells, let alone Soho.

What’s happening in this scrap of Adriatic paradise? And why are two decent men, on utterly different ends of the UK political spectrum, adding their weight to a cause backed by someone described to me by a former senior director of the Montenegrin secret service, who is no supporter of the Government, as “the most evil and dangerous man in the country”?

Hold on, Montenegro is peaceful, didn’t get involved in the awful bloodletting of the Yugoslav civil war, and most importantly is over 70% Christian, is a member of Nato and wants to join the EU. It would be madness for it to either persecute Christians or demolish churches. What’s going on?

At a loose end, Covid’s grip loosening and with friends who have been trying to get me to visit the place for years, I went. That my flight went via Milan and Warsaw gives an idea that the country, only 1100 miles away, is better reached by boat; the super yachts gleaming in its main marina, testify to this.

Montenegro has a cultural mix that puts any London suburb to shame, though it is almost entirely ethnically Slavic. History has left it with a huge variety of religions, Catholic, Serbian and Montenegrin Orthodox, Muslim, Jewish and the rest. Just over 50% are Serbian Orthodox, about 20% Montenegrin Orthodox, 20% Muslim, 5% Catholic and smaller numbers atheist – a hangover from communism, and other faith groups.

National borders cut right through cultural borders creating a multilayered patchwork, a three-dimensional powder keg. The current row centers on the Religious Toleration bill, which amongst other things requires all faith groups to register as such (or they cannot access state funding and so on, though they can still continue their religious activities), and this is the key point, that they must prove ownership of property built before 1918 or they will be sequestered by the state.

That date is significant, as it was when Montenegro was annexed by the Kingdom of Serbia. This was disputed by the national assembly despite it being convened by the Serbian authorities but was encouraged in its decision by a large detachment of Serbian troops that surrounded the building until the correct decision was reached.

Everybody I spoke to, historians, political activists, representatives of the Government, the various churches and ordinary citizens had one thing in common. Though the legislation was passed in 2019, and the election is next month, at least three quarters of every conversation about politics majors on 1918.

For added spice and comprehension, a variety of dates from 1200 through to the 1860s mostly involving brave Montenegrin warriors, taking on all comers would be included.

All this history produces a heady and volatile mix. The Government is not above criticism. The President has been accused of a series of issues - all of which he would deny - like election fixing and corruption. There has been intimidation and murder of journalists attributed to mafia and gangsters. His Government is regularly likened to a criminal enterprise and financial scandals involving his family are rife.

After 30 years, many, including some in his own governing Party of Democratic Socialists, wish for him to stand down. The opposition is weak, and the only institution that has the wealth and scope to oppose him is the Serbian Orthodox church. It is in the Government’s crosshairs, being accused of being in the pocket of Serbian, and thus Russian interests. But it too is no pin up boy for progressive values.

In Orthodoxy, the normal situation is that the church is part of the construction of the state, ‘autocephalic’, or whose hierarchy is independent of any other. But, claims Father Mihail Backovic, “We made Montenegro”.

Backovic, a man of God who served in Serbia’s pre-2006 paratroop special forces, is the Metropolitan’s right-hand man. He represents a church whose primary loyalty is to a different state, Serbia. He regards himself as having loyalty to, 'God, Serbian and Montenegro", just as I am English and British.

The Montenegrin Orthodox church was wound up in 1918, as without a state, it had no function. Now it has reformed and wants access to the churches that it claims are its own patrimony. Their non-canonical leader, Archbishop Mihailo Dedeic, wants access to these old churches, “we fear the disappearance of Montenegro itself if we do not do this,” citing the importance of independent national churches.

Today he sits in his garden, drinking shots of rakia, a couple of hundred yards from the Monastery of Cetinje, the seat of his archopponent. It was rigged to explode when the Turks took it in 1692, rather spoiling their party and killing dozens. A fact everybody repeats with relish.

The row between church and state is not about faith at all, but about power and money. The Government wants it and the church has it.

The monastery of Ostrog alone, an impossibly romantic place halfway up a cliff, raises tens of millions a year. The church is prepared,

I’m told, to put “250,000 on the streets after the election”, which, given the population is 600,000 is significant. Negotiations have broken down completely, despite the Government offering the concession that it would not be up to the Church to prove ownership, but that the onus would be on the state.

The church walked out, muttering darkly. A meeting of Serbian Orthodox bishops and senior clergy was summoned in Podgorica and has been followed up by meetings in dioceses in Serbia, Bosnia and elsewhere, beyond Montenegro’s borders.

The working assumption is that these meetings are to co-ordinate non-Montenegrin aspects of the post electoral protests. They claim to be of the country, but their actions suggest that their loyalties and capabilities are elsewhere. This allows the government to portray them as an asset of a hostile foreign power, Serbia (with the Russian bear just out of sight in the shadows). They do not see why they should be treated like other faith groups given they are the largest. They do not see why they should provide full title to their property, despite others, such as the Catholic church, being happy and willing to do so – because the transfer of property in 1918 was by fiat.

Supporters of the church believe that if property is transferred, a range of stunning monasteries will, in short order, become luxury hotels for cash rich guests, with the profits finding their way into the pockets of government officials and their friends. And all this is the lead up to fiercely contested elections at the end of August.

Many roadside restaurants boast a specialty, “Fish on Fire”. The fear of pretty much everybody in the country is that come September, it will be the country, not the fish that are on the barbeque.

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