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News 25 Sep 12

Montenegro Albanians Doubt Plan to Restore Municipality

Ruling party leader's announcement that a mainly Albanian area of the capital may become a municipality meets sceptical response, coming in the run-up to the October general election.

Milena Milosevic
BIRN
Podgorica

Ethnic Albanian leaders in Montenegro responded cautiously to a pledge by the ruling party's leader to re-establish a mainly Albanian municipality in the country.

Milo Djukanovic, chairman of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, on Sunday told the party’s pre-election convention that the mainly ethnic Albanian Tuzi area might have its independent municipal status restored in the near future.

He said the authorities would hold a consultative referendum in order to decide the issue on October 4, ten days before Montenegro's general election.

Currently, the predominantly Albanian residents of this area, near the capital, Podgorica, enjoy limited self-government, although Tuzi still forms part of Podgorica.

The area, also known as Malesia, stretches up to the Montenegrin border with Albania, comprising more than 17 per cent of Podgorica’s territory.

Historically, it was an independent municipality, but it lost this status in 1957.

The demand for Tuzi to become a municipality once again has been a priority issue for Albanians who make up about 5 per cent of the population of Montenegro.

Some ethnic Albanian leaders criticized Djukanovic’s promise as a political ploy aimed at winning more votes in the forthcoming election.

Vaselj Sinistaj, a candidate for the Za jedinstvo (For Unity) bloc, dismissed the announcement as a pre-electoral trick, questioning the legal foundations for organizing such a referendum.

He and another Albanian leader in August launched an initiative to re-establish the Tuzi municipality before parliament, by submitting a feasibility study.

Mehmet Barhdi, another prominent Albanian politician, recalled that the DPS promised municipal status for Tuzi 15 years ago.

Early parliamentary polls are to take place in Montenegro on October 14 when the DPS-led government of Prime Minister Igor Luksic will be seeking re-election.

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