May 6, 2019 - The US organization Freedom House classified Montenegro as a partially free state and assessed that President Milo Djukanovic and his Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) used an extensive network of corruption, including allegedly linked organized crime, to remain in power for nearly three decades.
The influential organization of Montenegro, in the report "Freedom in the World"
, gave a score of 65 out of 100 possible. The report states that in Montenegro voters are generally free to express their political choices, but also an extensive system of protection and widespread corruption encourages loyalty to the ruling party.
"Many members of the ruling party have alleged links to organized crime, which cement the DPS in power. Employers in the public and private sector, associated with the state, press jobs to vote for a ruling coalition. The marginalized population, such as Roma, is mobilized by DPS through purchasing votes," the document states.
"Djukanovic has been using enormous power for decades, through the functions of the prime minister and the president, but also the president of DPS when he was out of government. He maintains extensive control over most public institutions. Although under the Constitution of Montenegro the parliamentary system of government, the Assembly adopted a new law after Djudanovic won the presidential elections in 2018, which significantly extended his presidential mandate," the report adds. It is also stated that Djukanovic concentrated the power in his hands. Corruption and placement of close men to functions are, according to the report, widespread, although modest attempts by the authorities to choose these phenomena.
The report states that efforts to strengthen the independence of the judiciary are continuing, but that it remains sensitive to the pressure of the government and that corruption in the judiciary remains a problem for Montenegro.
It is alleged that during the trial of two heads of the Democratic Front (DF) Andrija Mandic and Milan Knežević for attempting a state strike and that the outcome of their cases will show the level of transparency, openness and accountability in the court system.
Freedom House states that the DPS-led government relentlessly works to delegitimize political activities that are inconsistent with their policy, characterizing a different strategy as a threat to the state and the public order.
It also reminds of the arrest of DF deputy Nebojsa Medojevica's refusal to testify. The state sector, the report adds, dominates the economy and clientelism and corruption is a barrier to regular business.
Domestic violence, according to the document, remains a problem, and women are insufficiently politically represented, both politically in general and in terms of leading positions in parties and institutions.
The problem remains, as alleged, trafficking due to prostitution and forced labour, but it is also noted that the US Department of State has pointed out that the Montenegrin government has intensified efforts to persecute smugglers.
In addition to the overall rating of 65, Freedom House has opted for freedom in Montenegro with 3.5 of the possible seven, political rights with four out of seven, and civil liberties with three out of seven.
Freedom House classified partially free countries as also Serbia, Kosovo, Albania, Macedonia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, while Croatia and Slovenia are part of the free states.
The opposition in Montenegro is, according to the esteem of Freedom House weak and divided.
"The observers noted that the line between the party structure of the DPS and government institutions was unclear, making the opposition even worse off. While many parties overwhelm the elections, the opposition is divided and weak and often boycotts political processes. The opposition party's position is even worse in 2018 when they suffered defeats at both presidential and local elections," the report said.
The American organization has estimated that media reporting in Montenegro is often party and warlike.
It adds that the government often does not allow contracts for oppressive media.
It is added that journalists covering corruption and organized crime in danger of violence are reminded of injuring "Vijesti" journalist Oliver Lakić for reporting fraud in the government elite.
Freedom House reminds of the dismissal of RTCG director Andrijana Kadije and states that human rights organizations have denounced the removal by saying that it was a DPS move that they wanted to take control of the Public Service after showing greater objectivity and independence during 2017.
Text by Darvin Muric