General elections were held in Montenegro on October 14, 2012. The country’s unicameral legislature, the Assembly of Montenegro (Skupština Crne Gore) has 81 members, of which 76 are elected by party-list proportional representation with a 3% threshold and the five remaining seats are directly elected seats reserved for “national minorities” (in the past, only Albanians, but now open to all minorities such as Bosniaks).
Montenegro won independence from Serbia in 2006, following a referendum in which over 55% of voters voted in favour of separation (the threshold for independence to pass had been 55% of the votes, rather than the usual 50%+1). Since 1991, Montenegrin politics have been dominated by the figure of Milo Đukanović, who has served as both Prime Minister and President, most recently as Prime Minister between 2008 and 2010. In 1989, as part of the “anti-bureaucratic revolution” in Serbia, Đukanović was one of three young communist apparatchiks (closely allied to Slobodan Milošević) who toppled the old guard and seized control of the local communist branch. Đukanović became Prime Minister in 1991, a close ally of President Momir Bulatović and Milošević. The Montenegrin leadership actively supported Serbia during the Balkan wars and partook in the armed conflict in Croatia alongside Milošević’s forces. Under Đukanović and Bulatović, the local communist party became the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS).
However, with Serbia (and Montenegro)’s increasing isolation from the rest of the world in 1996-1997, Đukanović broke with Bulatović and Milošević. Ahead of the 1997 presidential election, Đukanović wrestled control of the DPS away from Bulatović and effectively purged Bulatović’s supporters from the DPS, leading Bulatović to form a new party, the Socialist People’s Party (SNP). In that year’s presidential election, Đukanović narrowly defeated Bulatović in a disputed runoff. Having squeezed Bulatović out of power, Đukanović made his mark on the country. He distanced himself from Milošević’s regime and aligned with the West, while remaining notionally loyal to the idea of Yugoslavia.
By 2001-2002, Đukanović started openly pushing for independence. The country had been an independent kingdom until it was forcibly annexed by the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1918. Montenegrin national identity and its status as an ethnic group and language separate from Serbian is a touchy topic, a lot of Serbs considered Montenegrins as ethnic Serbs.
Đukanović resigned the presidency to become Prime Minister again in 2002. His pro-independence coalition won the 2002 legislative elections over the anti-independence moderate coalition, led by the SNS (Bulatović lost the party’s leadership in 2001 following Milošević’s ouster, and formed his own party). As Prime Minister, Đukanović emerged as a forceful advocate of Montenegrin independence, which was finally achieved in May 2006. He resigned as Prime Minister in November 2006, and was succeeded by Željko Šturanović. Two months before, Đukanović’s coalition emerged victorious in the first legislative elections after independence.
Šturanović stepped down in 2008, ushering in Đukanović’s return to the office of Prime Minister. His government was handily reelected in 2009, winning over 50% of the vote. Đukanović has emerged as a strong proponent of European integration, and his government’s policies have largely revolved around EU membership. Montenegro became a candidate country in December 2010, and negotiations with the EU began earlier this year. After the country became a candidate for EU membership, he stepped down as Prime Minister and was replaced by his close ally, finance minister Igor Lukšić.
The opposition to the DPS (and its smaller sidekick/ally, the SDP) is fairly heterogeneous. The bulk of the opposition are pro-Serbian parties which opposed independence in 2006 and find their strongest support with the country’s Serbian minority (a bit less than 30% of the population). A bunch of these parties merged in 2009 under the label “New Serb Democracy” (NOVA), led by Andrija Mandić – the former leader of the right-wing Serbian People’s Party. In 2009, the SNP, now led by Srđan Milić and leading a pro-European line, was the strongest of the opposition parties. The SNP had opposed independence in 2006.
Ahead of this year’s election, NOVA joined forces with the liberal Movement for Changes (PZP), a “Montenegrin” (by that, I mean that it finds most support with Montenegrins rather than Serbs) party. The PZP, which strongly supports European integration and campaigns against corruption (Đukanović and his government are often suspected of corruption, Đukanović himself was allegedly involved in tobacco smugling in the 1990s), won 6% in 2009. The two parties formed a coalition known as the Democratic Front. There was also a new party contesting, the centre-left Positive Montenegro; while the new rules on minority seats allowed small ethnic parties (for example, the Bosniak Party) which had been allied to the DPS in 2009 to run on their own.
Turnout was 70.3%. The results were as follows:
European Montenegro (DPS-SDP-LPCG) 45.6% (-6.3%) winning 39 seats (-5)
Democratic Front (NOVA-PZP) 23.7% (+8.5%) winning 20 seats (+7)
SNP 10.6% (-6.2%) winning 9 seats (-7)
Positive CG 8.9% (+8.9%) winning 7 seats (+7)
Bosniak Party 4.4% (+4.4%) winning 3 seats (nc)
FORCA (Albanian) 1.4% (-0.5%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Serbian Unity 1.4% winning 0 seats
Albanian Coalition 1.1% (+0.3%) winning 1 seat (nc)
Serbian National Federation 0.9% winning 0 seats
Democratic Union of Albanians 0.9% (-0.6%) winning 0 seats (-1)
Croatian Civic Initiative 0.5% winning 1 seat (nc)
The governing coalition was easily reelected, though by a reduced margin. There is now some question over whether or not Milo Đukanović, the grand old man of Montenegrin politics who has remained as the DPS leader, will become Prime Minister again (or if he will run for President next year). After all, even out of office he has remained the real strongman in the country, and he was the top candidate on his coalition’s list again this year.
The opposition came out strengthened from the election. The new Democratic Front alliance has easily beaten out Srđan Milić’s SNP to become the strongest opposition party. The SNP had been invited to join the new opposition coalition, but Milić refused. However, some members of the SNP apparently backed the new opposition coalition anyway.
The DPS now falls just short of an absolute majority. It is likely that it will be able to form a government with the support of the Bosniak Party and some of the other smaller minority parties out there.
A really random note on the elections in the Azores on October 14. They were uneventful, the governing Socialists (PS) retained an absolute majority in the regional legislature, the centre-right PSD (in power in Lisbon) gained some ground while the right-wing CDS-PP and the left (BE and CDU) lost ground.
Next elections are the Basque Country and Galicia on October 21. Unfortunately, I won’t have a post up on that for quite some time until after the elections.