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07 Nov 12

Breaking the DPS Spell in Montenegro

Bojan Baca

The idea that nothing has changed in as a result of the recent general election is profoundly mistaken.

A few weeks ago, Montenegro had its parliamentary elections. The winner(s): the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and its satellites. Again.

If we look at the situation, it remains pretty much the same. Yet, the symptoms of impending change are noticeable. In 2012, things started changing within the political field of Montenegro: new political subjects and actors emerged, both conventional and unconventional, and simultaneously the kernel of political discourse started shifting – from identity issues to socioeconomic problems.

If we pay attention to the political analysts, we will hear that nothing has changed in reality: the DPS is still the strongest political party. However, if we carefully scan the situation, we will notice that things have changed in actuality: if the DPS wants to prolong its reign, it must depend on others.

Therefore, the first symptom of the change is the DPS’s newfound political impotence. As far as their (potential) voters are concerned, without Milo Djukanovic, they are nothing but a group of unsympathetic apparatchiks. With him in the game, they become a force to be reckoned with. As simple as that.

But this time, his presence was not enough. And all of a sudden, political potency was to be found in others. The DPS and its coalition partners had to turn to opposition parties representing ethnic/national minorities in order to create a post-election coalition to obtain four more years of power. Okay, that seems to happen everywhere, but in Montenegro it is pretty much new.

The second symptom of change has to do with the DPS’s opponents, both old and new. Instead of focusing on identity issues, the opposition parties started talking about socioeconomic problems. These issues are debated in every county, but in Montenegro this is pretty much new.

Nevertheless, the DPS is still trying to present itself as the pillar of Montenegrin independence, and it equates every political attack on itself – or even on its policies – as an attack on the state.

In combination with political clientelism – that is, the exchange of services and goods for political support – this kind of manipulation has rendered voting into a social issue: DPS supporters are not voting, they are buying their own peace of mind.

However, the spell is slowly losing its grip over Montenegrin citizens, as they become more and more disenchanted with identity issues and realize that the rampaging socioeconomic problems they face have been created by the same people who provide them with temporary solutions in election campaigns.

The transformation does not stop there. Not only opposition parties and common folk, but civil society organizations, public intellectuals, university professors, students, and many other social and political actors are shifting the focus of Montenegrin politics to socioeconomic issues, issues created by the neo-liberal restructuring of the economic system which started almost 25 years ago, at the time the DPS seized the power.

During these 25 years, Djukanovic and his party allegedly managed to achieve almost everything: independence, setting the country on the path to the EU, bringing Montenegro closer to NATO membership… Everything but one crucial thing: they failed to provide the citizens of Montenegro with dignified living conditions.

And in order to achieve that crucial thing, they have to vacate the throne.

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