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news 01 Dec 16

Old Doubts Cling to Montenegro’s New Cabinet

Despite a host of fresh faces in the cabinet, not everyone is persuaded that Montenegro's new government under Dusko Markovic will be that different from the old one.

Dusica Tomovic
 The new government under PM Dusko Markovic will be a government of continuity. Photo. gov.me

Montenegro's new Prime Minister, Dusko Markovic, has got off to a radical start – demanding spending cuts and telling sleepy public servants they might as well go home.

Few critics believe his government will deliver anything very new, however.

With only four names retained from the previous cabinet led by veteran former Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, Markovic has introduced a completely new government, mostly comprising people who are little known to the public in tiny Montenegro.

Reportedly, Markovic wanted to refresh the cabinet and appoint ministers untainted by suspicions of abuse of office and corruption.

The new Ministry of Sports will be run by the award-winning athlete Nikola Janovic. A little known energy expert, Dragica Sekulic, will lead the Economy Ministry and the new Foreign Minister is Srdjan Darmanovic, a former civil rights activist.

A scientist with an international profile, Sanja Damjanovic, who was engaged in projects at the European Institute of Physics in Switzerland, CERN, will lead the Ministry of Science.

But the appointment of Darko Radunovic as Finance Minster has sparked more controversy. Radunovic is a former CEO of Prva Bank, the bank owned by Djukanovic's brother, who was at the centre of many financial scandals over the years.

The director of the watchdog Civic Alliance, Boris Raonic, said Markovic had made some bold choices and had freed the cabinet from "the most corrupted ministers" and appointed several associates of undoubted professional authority.

"But the new government will be a government of continuity when it comes to policy guidelines," he said.

The government was approved on Monday, a month after the general election. The parliamentary majority is composed of Djukanovic's old party, the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, the Social Democrats and several ethnic minority parties - the Bosniak Party, a coalition of small Albanian parties and the Croatian Civic Initiative.

Minorities will now hold four seats in cabinet, one more than in the previous cabinet, but the biggest minority of all, the Serbs, who make up almost 30 per cent of the population, will have no offical ministerial representation.

In his inaugural speech on Monday, Markovic said the victory of his DPS in the parliamentary elections on October 16 was "the most important political event since the referendum [in 2006] on restoring independence" [lost after World War I].

“Why do I say it like that? Because our victory is more valuable than ever, achieved in a political game with the competition, which was the most ever organised, and with a campaign conceived both in and outside the country," Markovic said, alluding to Russian's alleged role in financing the election campaign of pro-Moscow opposition groups.

"All of this suggests that the opposition still has to learn about parliamentarism, trust in institutions and the responsibility that members of parliament have to those who elected them," Markovic said.

Raonic said he was concerned that although parts of Markovic’s speech were conciliatory towards the media, the old authoritarian tone still prevailed. "Authoritarian rhetoric will be another continuity of the new government," he predicted.

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