Montenegrin Leader Survives Vote After Offering Concessions

  • Djukanovic invites all parties in parliament to join cabinet
  • Opposition wants interim government formed ahead of Oct. vote

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic won a vote of confidence in parliament, defeating an ouster bid from opposition parties who pressured him to step down after serving as either president or prime minister since Yugoslavia began its bloody breakup in 1991.

Djukanovic had the support of 42 lawmakers in the 81-member parliament on Wednesday in Podgorica. He won the vote, which he demanded following protesters calling for more-transparent elections this year, after offering the opposition some say in government and a path toward general elections.

The main reason to call the confidence vote was a “deepening rift” between the parties of the ruling coalition, Djukanovic told lawmakers on Monday, the first of three days of debate over the motion. Just before the vote, he invited all parties in parliament to join his cabinet and “help the country strengthen its stability and get a credible government.”

With the confidence-motion victory, Djukanovic hopes to solidify his position in the tiny Balkan state, which was invited to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization in December. Djukanovic accused opposition parties in October of staging street protests in the republic of 630,000 people to derail the invitation, describing them as “the last attempt inside Montenegro and outside Montenegro to prevent its NATO membership and further expansion” by the alliance into the western Balkans.

The yield on Montenegro’s 5-year benchmark bond maturing in 2020 fell four basis point, or 0.04 percentage point, to 5.266 percent at 1:46 p.m. in Podgorica, according to data compiled by Bloomberg.

Free Elections

The opposition, which has accused Djukanovic of using his unbroken stint at top posts to consolidate his influence over the state, is demanding the formation of an interim government with full control over the interior, finance, agriculture and social affairs ministries and the security services for six months to ensure a democratic election process. They also want to revise electoral rolls, allow free access for media to the government and to create new election laws, opposition leader Nebojsa Medojevic said.

“We’ll invite all opposition parties to either join us, the Democratic Front, or support and be part of Djukanovic’s government,” Medojevic, who leads the Movement for Change, said by phone. “Forming an interim government is a matter of political agreement.”

In response, Djukanovic offered the opposition posts as either ministers or deputy ministers in the key departments as well as one post of deputy prime minister. His offer included “joint efforts” to establish conditions for “free and fair parliamentary elections.”

Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists is Montenegro’s most popular party, garnering support of 45.1 percent of voters, according to a November survey from the Center for Democracy and Human Rights. The opposition movement DEMOS ranked second with 10.2 percent support, according to the survey of 1,033 respondents.

“For opposition parties, rejecting the offer and calling again on Djukanovic to step down after the confidence vote will be very difficult to justify,” Zlatko Vujovic, professor at the Podgorica Faculty of Political Science, said by phone, describing the invitation to opposition groups as the start of cabinet shuffle. “At the same time, Djukanovic’s message to the European Union and to everyone else is that he wants to be part of solution not part of conflict.”

Ranko Krivokapic, the parliament speaker whose Social-Democratic Party withdrew support to Djukanovic after 18 years, said opposition parties should consider the prime minister’s invitation, to meet on Feb. 1 to restore dialog, and to try to reach agreement “on Monday because we all know what the alternative is.”

Regular parliamentary elections are due in October. Some opposition groups have already signaled they’ll boycott the ballot if their conditions are not met.

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