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news 04 Apr 16

Election Deal Brings Hope of End to Montenegro Crisis

After months of negotiations, Montenegro's ruling and opposition parties are set to sign an agreement on organizing free elections, hopefully ending a prolonged political crisis.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
 Montenegro's political leaders agreed to end the crisis that has kept the country at boiling point for months | Photo: Montenegrin Parliament.

Montenegro's quarrelling parties have agreed to sign a landmark deal on the conduct of the next elections by April 9.

Under the terms of the agreement, the opposition will get ministerial seats in the cabinet and representatives in important state institutions.

However, it is unclear if the three opposition parties that have been negotiating with Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic will get everything they asked for as the price of ending the country's prolonged turmoil.

The crisis in Montenegro, the worst since it gained independence in 2006, revolves around opposition claims that the government has no legitimacy to organize general elections planned this year.

The opposition accuses the government led by Djukanovic of election fraud and of misuse of state funds for party political purposes.

Nedjeljko Rudovic, a representative of the civic movement URA, one of the opposition parties that participated in the negotiations, told BIRN that more than 90 per cent of the opposition demands had now been accepted.

It is agreed that the opposition will get five ministerial seats and will participate in 16 state institutions, six state-owned enterprises and financial services at municipal level.

The opposition said that it had also agreed with the Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, that the Special Prosecution for Organized Crime will probe alleged violations of the electoral law and election fraud.

Currently, the Basic Prosecution Office is in charge of examining such offences but the opposition queries its capacity to conduct investigations properly.

Rudovic confirmed that the final phase of the deal is yet to be agreed. This concerns the opposition request that the director of public TV, Radojka Rutovic resign and that a new management-editorial team of the public broadcaster RTCG, be appointed.

The opposition says the current management of RTCG has been biased in its reporting for years.

The election agreement should oblige the government to hire a professional editorial team and management for RTCG chosen in accordance with he Code of Professional Journalists in Montenegro.

For the ruling DPS, a key condition for the agreement on the elections is the dismissal of the speaker of parliament, Ranko Krivokapic, once a close Djukanovic ally.

"I believe the agreement will be signed soon because only some technical details about its implemnetation remained to be settled," Rudovic explained.

Addressing parliament on Thursday, Djukanovic reiterated that he expected the dismissal of speaker Krivokapic to happen soon, adding that his party will not impose any additional requirements for the deal.

After the agreement is signed and submitted to the parliament, a lex specialis would be adopted to legally define the implementation and use of state resources.

The first test for the deal between Djukanovic and the opposition will be the local elections in the coastal town of Tivat, scheduled for April 17.

The opposition wants them postponed, accusing the government of delaying the implementation of EU-backed electoral laws adopted in 2014 in order to prevent fraud and misuse of state funds in such polls.

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