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news 08 Oct 15

Montenegro Protesters Refuse to Quit Streets

Anti-goverment protesters blocking the main steets in the capital Podgorica for days have ignored an order to unblock them and disperse.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Protesters turned a deaf ear to the request of the Podgorica' authorities.

Despite an order from the local authorities to unblock traffic in the centre of Podgorica, protesters on Wednesday said they would use "their bodies" to defend their right to demonstrate against Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic's government.

The Podgorica authorities on Tuesday ordered the protest organizers to remove their stage and tent city set up outside the parliament on September 27 and unblock the streets.

But as the deadline passed on Wednesday, the opposition refused to comply with the demand.

The leader of the civil initiative Alternative, Vesko Pejak, told BIRN that the protesters do not intend to give up "the only free territory in Montenegro".

He believes the authorities will not dare to use force against the thousands of people who have been protesting since last week.

"These few hundred square meters are only free space in a country that is fully occupied by a system that is broken," he said.

A 24-hour demonstration launched last week demanded the creation of an interim government to organise what they say would be Montenegro’s “first ever free and fair elections”.

The main opposition party alliance, the Democratic Front, joined by several civic and student organizations, accuses Djukanovic's government of widespread corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud.

For the first time responding directly to opposition demands, Djukanovic said a responsible government cannot meet ultimatums set by a political group "supported by 6 per cent of the citizens".

Djukanovic told national radio on Wednesday that the protests were an opportunity for the government to show its democratic character, however, stressing that protests are a valuable way of expressing political views, if exercised according to law.

"The organizers do their best to win the broadest possible support from the international public. However, this support only comes from Belgrade - and not from the state policy of Serbia, which is very important to note and confirms the quality of new inter-state relations between Serbia and Montenegro," Djukanovic said.  

Djukanovic has been in power since 1991 and is the longest serving leader in the Balkans and Europe.

The current coalition government was formed after the 2012 elections. It comprises Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, the Social Democratic Party, and three ethnic minority parties. The next general election is not due until spring next year.

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