After just three and a half months in office, a no-confidence vote earlier this month led to the collapse of the Montenegrin government under Prime Minister Doritán Abazovic.
It happened on August 20 after a dispute over an agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
But experts say the collapse of the government is just the latest example of the country’s political impasse, and could have wider ramifications.
Montenegro has been in a period of political instability for some time.
In February, Montenegro’s previous government, which took office in 2020 and was largely made up of pro-Serbian and pro-Russian parties, was overthrown in a no-confidence vote.
New poll looms
Now President Milo Dzukanovic must appoint a new prime minister. Otherwise, the country faces new elections.
For more than 30 years, Čukanovic and his Socialist Democratic Party (DPS) determined the country’s politics, and he negotiated independence from Serbia in 2006.
At the same time, however, Djukanovich remains a controversial figure who has been criticized for corruption, involvement in organized crime, and attacks on independent journalists.
Gedim Krasniki, a lecturer in nationalism and political sociology at the University of Edinburgh, told Al Jazeera that the recent government collapse was just the latest example of political instability.
“One of the main factors is the widening rift between pro-EU and pro-NATO parties and parties that favor stronger ties with Serbia and Russia,” he said.
“This polarization was particularly pronounced in the last parliamentary elections in 2020, when the latter side won a narrow electoral victory, with Montenegro’s current president and seven-time prime minister (since 1991) Miro. It has overthrown Čukanovic’s political party, the Social Democratic Party (DPS),” Krasniki said.
“Although the 2020 elections will mark the end of nearly 30 years of DPS rule by Milo Djukanovic, Milo Djukanovic’s DPS remains the most prominent political force in Montenegro. While it has created many enemies, the anti-DPS faction is too diverse and fragmented ideologically and politically to create viable and stable alternatives to governance in the near future.”
Meanwhile, Nikolaos Tsifakis, an associate professor of political science and international relations at the University of the Peloponnese, told Al Jazeera that Montenegro is not suffering from instability, but “too much stability” given the role the DPS plays. said he was in pain.
“For the first time in history [after the 2020 election], DPS objected. But it quickly became clear that the ruling coalition was too dissimilar to move the country apart from ousting the DPS from power,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Following the end of the Union [in February 2022]a minority government led by a ‘black and white’ citizen platform and supported in parliament by the DPS has been formed,” Tzifakis said.
“As a result, the DPS won the power check once again, handling issues such as combating corruption and organized crime, but also helping to solidify and widen the gap between former ruling coalition partners. In this way it became an integral part of the subsequent formation of the coalition government.Moreover, the DPS is internationally known as the guardian of domestic stability. Sex is premised on pervasive corruption, state occupation, and semi-authoritarian governance.”
Serbian Orthodox Church
The former Yugoslav Republic of Montenegro became independent in 2006 through an agreement with the Serbian state.
Serbia is trying to regain its influence in Montenegro through churches and local pro-Serbian parties and organizations.
The status of the Serbian Orthodox Church has become one of the main controversial political issues in the country and is seen as part of Serbia’s continuing influence.
In fact, a controversial pact between Abazovic and the Serbian Orthodox Church has recently caused tension between the head of government and Djukanovic.
This pact was intended to give the church special rights, and it is believed that Jukanovich harshly criticized it.
“In fact, the recent agreement between the Abazovic regime and the Serbian Orthodox Church was the main reason pro-Montenegro and pro-European camps caused a vote of no confidence in the government,” Krasniki said.
“While interpretations of the agreement vary, it is a well-known fact that religious institutions’ intervention in politics and the public sphere can further escalate tensions and widen rifts in divided societies.” he added.
Relations between Serbia and Montenegro, despite their shared history and long experience as member states, have been complicated since the late 1990s when Montenegro’s politics were dominated by pro-independence political options. It was in
Although Serbia formally agreed to Montenegro’s independence in the mid-2000s, various nationalist elements within Serbia have ceased to advertise a future in which Montenegro would become part of some “Greater Serbia”. I did.
Nevertheless, the Serbian Orthodox Church plays a much more active role in Montenegro’s politics than the Serbian state, Krasniqi said.
“Serbian leaders did not hesitate to support pro-Serbian parties in Montenegro, but fell short of the type of direct engagement we have seen elsewhere – the pro-Kremlin, for example. Russia’s intervention in the post-Soviet region to establish/support the leaders of neighboring countries,” he said.
“Montenegro stands in direct opposition to Serbia on most major issues, including NATO membership, Kosovo’s independence, the Srebrenica genocide, and sanctions against Russia,” said Tsifakis.
“Having said that, the Serbian Orthodox Church was the decisive factor in the DPS’ defeat in the August 2020 elections, revealing it wielded greater influence in Montenegrin society than any opposition party. I have to admit that,” he said.
“Furthermore, we should not underestimate the flow of news and information from Serbia to Montenegro that shapes the stance of public opinion on many issues, such as people’s views of external geopolitical actors.”
Given that these factors are very likely to persist, the next government will likely face the same problems. Serbia is likely to maintain its influence in the region, particularly through the instrumentalization of Serb ethnic groups. Montenegro identifies around 30% of its citizens as Serbs.
“Genuine political change”
“The country needs to form a coalition between all EU-oriented political parties and civil society actors in favor of reforms that will inspire people to vote for real political change in early parliamentary elections. Unfortunately, the formation of such a coalition is yet to be seen,” Tsifakis said.
“What we are witnessing now is a new type of political struggle in Montenegro, with various anti-DPS and anti-Djukanovic political parties and leaders vying to establish control,” he said. rice field.
“As noted above, the camp is ideologically and politically fragmented, so we expect this period of political fragmentation and polarization to continue for an even longer period of time.” Krasniki added.
He said it was not yet known if a new majority could be formed in parliament or if both sides could agree to new elections.
“New elections, which could be called soon, are crucial for the various opposition parties to win the battle to gain the mantle of anti-DPS alternatives in Montenegro,” Krasniqi said.
“However, given the rifts between the parties that were part of the coalition that overthrew the DPS in 2020, it would not be surprising to see a DPS-led government formed after the next elections.”
But in a region with the longest continuous period of political instability, even though “internal political strife and political disputes themselves are not a threat to the region,” this undone struggle is likely to continue beyond Montenegro. Some wonder if it could also affect Said.
Adherence of Belgrade nationalist circles to the completion of the “Serbian world”, namely Axis Belgrade (Serbia). Banja Luka (Bosnia and Herzegovina); Podgorica (Montenegro); Mitrovica (Kosovo) – The situation is exacerbated by a highly fluid international situation and the emerging political vacuum in the Balkans.
“Undoubtedly, this poses a threat to Montenegro’s statehood and wider regional stability,” Krasniqi noted.
Montenegro’s NATO membership and pro-Western ties in the Ukraine war could make it an easy target for the Russian state and its Balkans proxies.
“In many respects, given its political, ideological and ethnic divisions, Russia may see Montenegro as the weakest link in the NATO chain,” Krasniki said.
Furthermore, he also aspires that given the delicate regional and international situation, the ongoing political polarization in Montenegro undermines Montenegro’s Euro-Atlantic commitments and regional stability. He pointed out that it could be exploited by other external actors.
Montenegro has been in concrete EU accession negotiations since June 2012 and has been able to open all negotiation chapters so far.
This puts Serbia ahead of the six Western Balkans aspiring to join the EU.
The next government will therefore have a significant impact on whether the country moves further west or falls under Serb influence.
The latter would be a bitter defeat for the EU, Mr Tzifakis said.
“Montenegro is considered to be at the forefront among the Western Balkans on the road to EU membership. It deprives us of the success stories we chose to do,” he said.
“The country needs to form coalitions between all EU-oriented political parties and civil society actors in favor of reforms that will inspire people to vote for real political change in early parliamentary elections. ‘ concluded Tzifakis. “Unfortunately, we do not yet see the formation of such a coalition.”