#Montenegro elections called into question by EU

| October 21, 2016 | 0 Comments

milo-djukanovicThe European Union has called for a “thorough investigation”  of allegations of fraud in the recent elections in Montenegro.

Opposition parties in Montenegro have accused the country’s prime minister, Milo Đukanović (pictured), of using dirty tricks to retain power in Sunday’s (16 October) election.

The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) – led by Djukanovic, who has run Montenegro almost constantly for more than 25 years – will be the largest single party in the new parliament with 36 of 81 seats providing it can form a coalition.

Election observers, however, said they plan to file complaints over numerous allegations of fraud.

In an indirect reference to the fraud allegations, the EU’s High Representative/Vice-President Federica Mogherini said:  “Any cases of procedural irregularities observed need to be duly followed up by competent authorities and other shortcomings reported by the observers need to be addressed.”

A source at the European Commission’s neighbourhood policy and enlargement directorate (DG) told this website: “There clearly needs to be a thorough investigation into the allegations of irregularities.”

The election was marred by claims of irregularities and a temporary ban on WhatsApp, Viber and similar messaging apps.

The website of the NGO Centre for Democratic Transition and all its subdomains were under constant attack from 13 October onwards and Montenegrin Telekom (T-com) reported numerous attacks.

DPS has been part of the government since 1991 and Dukanovic has served either as prime minister or as president for most of that time.

The political turmoil resulting from the election at the weekend could cast a shadow on the small Balkan republic’s NATO and EU ambitions.

Mogherini added: “Montenegro is well advanced in its EU accession process and the months ahead must be used to deepen and speed up political and economic reforms, particularly on the rule of law, where we want to see an ever stronger implementation.”

The opposition, which accuses Djukanovic of corruption and cronyism, insists it has a good chance of forging a parliamentary majority and has poured scorn on claims that Serb gunmen planned to attack state targets and top politicians.

An election monitoring mission sent by the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) found that the media had lacked editorial independence in covering a campaign “permeated by personal attacks”.

The country’s prosecutor’s office said 114 complaints, including the anti corruption watchdog, the Network for Affirmation of NGO Sector, had been lodged about alleged electoral fraud and “vote buying”.

Party Activists from DPS were seen recording voters outside some polling stations.

Nebojsa Medojevic, leader of the Democratic Forum, the larger of the two alliances, said, “The opposition has unanimously decided not to recognize the election result because of an attempted coup and misuse of state institutions as well as the creation of an atmosphere of fear which directly influenced the election result.”

Djukanović, 54, is the only Balkan leader to have held on to power since the collapse of Yugoslavia began in the early 1990s, serving several times as prime minister and once as president.

In 2003, Djukanovic was named a suspect in an Italian cigarette trafficking inquiry dating back to the 1990s and he faced large anti-government rallies last year.

Critics of the regime say that after Sunday’s poll he is now under fresh pressure, with critics also accusing his government of corruption and links to organised crime.

The furore comes after the European Parliament adopted a resolution which condemns Đukanović’s government for lack of progress in strengthening the rule of law and governance and fighting corruption and organised crime.

The resolution, adopted in March this year, says that “corruption remains a serious concern, particularly in […] privatisation” and “reiterates the need to eliminate corruption on all levels since it undermines democratic principles and negatively affects social and economic development”. It has criticised the government’s lacklustre approach to tackling corruption by calling on it “to make combating corruption one of its priorities by allocating sufficient human and budgetary resources to it”, and urging it to make the Special Prosecutor’s Office “fully operational as soon as possible”.

Montenegro, which has a population of some 630,000, is deeply divided between those who favor and oppose integration with the West. After seceding from Serbia in 2006, the country, which had been an ally of Russia, has taken a strong turn toward Euro-Atlantic integration.

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