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Political maneuvers of Milo Djukanovic

24.01.2016 20:46

Pyotr Iskenderov, a senior fellow at the Institute of Slavic Studies, Ph.D.

A vote of (none) confidence to the Government of Milo Djukanovic in the Assembly of Montenegro scheduled for January 25 has not yet been officially confirmed. The agenda of the Parliament just indicates vaguely that the first half of the day will be dedicated to "consideration of confidence to the government of Montenegro." According to available information, such wording theoretically allows the ruling coalition to reject this requirement at the latest moment and thus remove the issue from the agenda.

Thus, the fact that the vote of confidence to the government is very significant and has been determined by a number of factors as the forthcoming gathering referrers to the Assembly's first extraordinary session in 2016.

First of all, upcoming voting is in line with essentially similar domestic political processes currently taking place in the neighboring Balkan countries. The Macedonian Parliament during the session on January 18 accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Nikola Gruevski and thereupon announced its own dissolution. Early parliamentary elections are scheduled for April 24th. Although the mechanism of the government's resignation was established back in the inter-party on the withdrawal from the political crisis, which was signed by Macedonian politicians in July 2015 with the mediation of the European Union, the opposition led by the Social Democratic Union has already pledged to boycott the upcoming elections, seeing Gruevski to desire playing a political combination in order to preserve the power of the ruling party.

In Serbia early parliamentary elections (approximately scheduled in April) also have been announced recently. Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has justified this step with the needs for "four more years of stability" and preparations for the European Union. In this case, the ruling coalition is seeking to use the favorable forecasts for themselves sociological services (favoring the ruling Serbian Progressive Party about 50% of the votes in the upcoming elections). This is supposed to ensure in accordance with voters opinion the course for European integration, and have an opportunity not to hold a referendum on the issue, as about 40% of Serbian voters are clearly against this idea.

Similar circumstances are of great importance to the Montenegrin authorities. But there has been a specificity. The public protests against pro-Western course of Milo Djukanovic that has been abate recent months, and in particular, against Montenegro's entry into NATO forced the authorities to start political maneuvering. Besides a referendum on Montenegrin foreign policy priorities seems to be even more dangerous step than for their Serbian counterparts. According to sociological research, at least 43-45% participants of the possible plebiscite are ready to vote against Montenegro in NATO. At the same time, according to the numerous online surveys, this figure rises to 73%.

The country nowadays is facing a signature campaign for a referendum on the country's integration into NATO. As the leader of the Socialist People's Party (SPP) Srdjan Milic pointed out, the Constitution of Montenegro involves four mechanisms to appoint a referendum: the initiative of the President, the initiative of the government, on the initiative of 25 deputies of the Assembly (Parliament) of Montenegro or at the request of 10% of registered voters, which amounts 52,806 people. "Looking back at the enthusiasm of the citizens we can already say, that we easily overfulfil this condition and our initiative will be unconditionally supported in Montenegro", - said Milic. According to him since the beginning of the campaign (December 29) "tens of thousands of signatures in 27 SPP offices across Montenegro have been collected". Referring to inner-agreement, the activists refused to disclose the exact number of collected signatures before the end of the campaign. However, according to available data, 55,000 signatures have been already gathered in pro of the  referendum.

In these circumstances, the transfer of this issue in the parliament walls for the early elections would allow the authorities to keep the initiative in their own hands in order to maximize the usage of administrative resources. The opposition "Democratic Front" in October 2015 put forward the slogan of the government's resignation and early elections, and now the government withstood a comfortable pause and having an official invitation from NATO to join the alliance, formally takes a step towards the opposition. At the same time, it retains the political initiative and the ability to vary their actions depending on the results of voting scheduled for January 25.

If Milo Djukanovic gets a vote of none confidence, he will obtain an opportunity to toughly respond to the opposition rally, referring to the will of the deputies. In addition, it will allow Milo Djukanovic play a wild "anti-Russian" card in line with the statements from autumn 2015 that "Russia, together with the Serb nationalists are involved in anti-government protests aimed at shifting of power in Montenegro". Otherwise the situations will transform into the government's resignation, the dissolution of parliament and early elections.

It is literally the choice between "bad and very bad" for the country which has been  already experiencing ethnic and political disruption. But this is the mere price for Djukanovic's policy.