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news 20 Sep 12

Montenegro: Key Political Parties

Profiles of the main political players in Montenegro.

The Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS:

The governing party in Montenegro for over two decades, the leader of the DPS is Milo Djukanovic, the party chief since 1998, who quit as Prime Minister in 2010.

Other key members are the President of Montenegro, Filip Vujanovic, who is the party’s vice-president and the former head of the State Union Serbia and Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic. Another key figure is the Mayor of Podgorica, Miomir Mugosa.

The DPS holds 36 of the 81 seats in the parliament, the Skupstina.

The party is the successor party to the League of Communists of Montenegro, which wound up in 1991, adopting a new name and constitution.

The DPS has won every general election in Montenegro since the first multi-party elections of 1990.

Initially, the DPS favoured maintaining the loose “State Union” with Serbia. In the early 1990s, the party was close to the Serbian nationalist regime in Belgrade of Slobodan Milosevic.

But in 1997, a section of the party under Djukanovic began turning against Milosevic and towards the idea of reestablishing Montenegro’s independence.

The pro-Serbian, pro-Milosevic element then broke away in 1998 to form a new party, the Socialist People’s Party.

The DPS was the main political force behind the successful pro-independence referendum held in 2006.

Today the party presents itself as the main advocate of EU membership and the attainment of European standards in all areas of the economy and society.

In June 2012, the DPS-led government celebrated the official start of membership talks with the EU.

For its part, the EU has told Montenegro to curb corruption and organized crime if it is serious about closing negotiations.

The DPS also strongly favours joining NATO, despite the lack of popular support for this idea.

Nominally a social democrat party and a member of Socialist International, opposition parties accuse it of pursuing neoliberal economic policies and of disregarding welfare safeguards.

It is one of the best organized parties in the region, if not in Europe, with approximately 100,000 members, more than fifth of the total number of registered voters in the country.

Despite the existence of ethnic minority parties in Montenegro, many members of those minorities, such as Bosniaks and Albanians, prefer to vote for the DPS.

In the current government, the Croatian Citizen Initiative, HGI, and the Bosniak Party, BS, are coalition partners along with the Social Democrat Party, SDP.

In the upcoming election on October 14, 2012, the DPS will run together with the SDP and Liberal Party, LP, which failed to enter the parliament in 2009 election.

The Social Democrat Party, SDP

A relatively small party, the Social Democrats have often held an important role in politics as a coalition partner of the DPS, enabling the larger party to form a majority government.

They hold nine of the 81 seats in parliament, following the 2009 parliamentary elections.

Together with the DPS, the party was among the main advocates of Montenegro’s renewed independence.

The party’s president, also now the speaker of parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, had the honour of officially proclaiming Montenegro’s independence on May 22, 2006.

The party was formed in the early Nineties as a union of several parties of a social democrat and socialist colouration.

In the first multi-party election of 1990 they affiliated with the Alliance of Reform Forces of Yugoslavia, led by Yugoslavia’s reformist prime minister, Ante Markovic.

During the Yugoslav wars the party was known for its anti-war stance.

Today, party officials are often accused of nepotism by the opposition media.

Although it has been in coalition with the DPS at national level since 1998, the SDP sporadically criticizes DPS policies, especially when it comes to the economy and privatization of former industrial giants.  In several local elections over the past years, it has run independently.

One of the highest profile local disputes with the DPS was in the capital, Podgorica, which resulted in the break-up of their coalition in the municipal assembly in 2011.

Ahead of the 2012 general election, the party stated that it might run independently, but in July it agreed to form another pre-electoral coalition with the DPS.

The Socialist People’s Party, SNP:

The main opposition party in Montenegro holds 16 of the 81 seats in parliament.

The SNP was founded in 1997 by the pro-Serbian wing of the DPS and was the leading force in the bloc supporting the continued “State Union” with Serbia in the independence referendum of May 2006.

After the bloc lost the referendum, the SNP suffered a loss of support as a result of which the party’s president, Predrag Bulatovic, resigned.

The new leader, Srdjan Milic, reformed the party. Under his guidance, the SNP moved away from concentrating on the relationship with Serbia and adopted a more civic, social democratic, pro-European agenda.

This change in emphasis shored up the SNP’s voting bloc and helped it to emerge as the second-largest party in the 2009 elections, after the DPS.

Over the last government’s term, the SNP softened its rhetoric towards the ruling DPS, which some interpreted as a sign that the party might be seeking better ties with the DPS.

There was speculation that two wings were emerging within the party, one led by its former leader, Bulatovic, and the other by Milic.

After the formation in July 2012 of the Democratic Front, an opposition political coalition initiated by the two other significant opposition parties, the Movement for Changes and New Serbian Democracy, the existence of factions within the party was confirmed.

Bulatovic and many other senior party members joined the Democratic Front in August 2012. By doing so, they automatically dismissed themselves from the SNP because they had acted contrary to the official party policy, the party having not agreed coalition terms with the Front.

Milic and the rest of the party’s leadership, on the other hand, have decided to run in the 2012 election independently, although they do not reject the possibility of forming a post-electoral coalition with the Democratic Front.

The Democratic Front:

The Democratic Front was established in July 2012 with the aim of replacing the regime of the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, which it describes as “authoritarian, retrograde, criminalistic and oligarchic”.

A broad coalition, it was established by the two opposition parties, New Serbian Democracy, NOVA, and Movement for Changes, PzP. Later a number of independent intellectuals, civil society leaders as well as a wing of Socialist People's Party joined.

It is headed by Miodrag Lekic, a former Yugoslav and Montenegrin ambassador to several countries and Montenegro’s foreign minister from 1992 to 1995.

Although its leaders have appealed to all who feel dissatisfied with the current government, the Front has not attracted many ethnic minority Bosniaks or Albanian members.

The Front has partly adopted the rhetoric of the civic protests that took place in the capital in 2012.

It demands the investigation of dubious privatizations and the termination of certain investment contracts that it deems harmful to the economy.  It also demands the start of a lustration process. Those involved in corruption and criminal structures must be put on trial.

Its political programme comprises a list of 595 proposals. It holds that the metal industry should be basis of the real economy and that tourism needs further development. It says it will achieve the reconciliation of the country’s deeply polarized society.

The Front’s symbol, written in both Cyrillic and Latin alphabets, portray a dove with an olive tree and combine old and new Montenegrin flags.

The Front is pro-European Union, but says that the question of joining NATO should be put to a referendum.

The Movement For Changes, PZP:

A pro-European party founded in 2006 from a civic NGO, the party is distinguished by its passionate opposition to the DPS.

Defeat of the government is its cherished goal. The PZP held a neutral position in the 2006 independence referendum. Since then, it has maintained that while it favoured independence in 2006 it did not want to be part of an alliance led by Djukanovic.

Although it started well for a new party, winning 11 seats in the 2006 elections, in 2009 it fell back to only five.

The loss was attributed to voter confusion over its choice of allies and partners. Its coalition with the DPS when the party was part of the two-thirds-majority vote needed for the adoption of the new constitution in 2007 alienated most other opposition parties.

They voted against the constitution (Serbian List, SNP, People’s Party, and Democratic Serbian Party). The DPS, PzP, the Liberal Party and the BS, on the other hand, voted in favour.

After this brief alignment with the ruling parties, the PzP went back to fiercely opposing the government, and, over time, established close cooperation with New Serbian Democracy, NOVA, even at the expense of some policy choices it previously advocated.

For example, although it voted for the constitution, which stipulated Montenegrin as an official language, the PzP later supported other opposition parties in seeking improved status for the Serbian language.

This won it back some support among pro-Serbian voters, but the presence of party members at an opposition rally against Kosovo’s independence in October 2008 alienated ethnic Albanians.

The PzP’s close cooperation with NOVA became more stable in 2012, with the formation of the Democratic Front, a broad coalition.

But critics of the party say that it only wants to participate in the Front to protect itself from a major electoral defeat.

The party leader, Nebojsa Medojevic, ran for the presidency in 2008, coming third with 17 per cent of the votes.

Positive Montenegro, PCG:

One of the newest parties in the country, it was formed in May 2012 under the leadership of former green activist Darko Pajovic with the aim of showcasing new people and ideas.

Positive Montenegro presents itself as a new, civic, centre-left force with a “clean past”. It aims to focus on socio-economic issues.

It also aims for a more moderate rhetoric than some of the older parties, like the Movement for Changes, PzP, and it steers clear of quarrels over issues of national identity.

The party advocates a socially responsible state, arguing for tight controls of natural resources and help for those who are struggling with the market economy.

It will run independently in the 2012 election, and opinion polls indicate that it is likely to gain enough votes to enter parliament.
The Bosniak Party, BS:

Founded in 2006 to protect the interests of the Bosniak [Muslim] minority, which makes up 7.7 per cent of the population, according to the 2003 census, it was formed out of a merger of four small parties: the International Democratic Union, the Party For Democratic Action, the Democratic Alliance of Bosniaks and the Party of National Equality.

The party lent the DPS-led government significant support in the independence referendum of 2006.

Since the Bosniak minority is concentrated in certain areas of the country, the party favours devolving powers to regions.

The BS has decided to run in the 2012 general election independently.

The Democratic Union of Albanians, DUA:

Led by Ferhat Dinosa, it is one of four parties that aim to protect the rights of the ethnic Albanian minority, which makes up 5 per cent of the population, according to the 2003 census. It has one seat in parliament. The other three parties are Forca, the Democratic League of Montenegro and the Albanian Alternative. Each also has one seat in parliament.

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