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news 02 Aug 17

Montenegro’s Parliament Gets Tough on MPs’ Brawls

After a series of brawls, lawmakers now face harsher fines for misbehaviour in parliament, but opposition parties argued that the new punishments are intended to intimidate them.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Violent scenes on July 27 when the parliamentary legislation committee voted to strip immunity from four oppsition MPs.

A new regulation adopted by the Montenegrin parliament, after recent violence between opposition and majority MPs, envisages harsh fines for lawmakers who brawl inside the parliamentary chamber.

The new rule is to be implemented by parliament from its autumn session, which is due to start in September.

A lawmaker’s monthly salary will be cut by half if they are found guilty of violating the rules. An MP’s current monthly salary is around 1,500-2,000 euros.

Under the new rules, if an MP gets an official warning form the parliamentary speaker, they can be fined ten per cent of their salary.

For using inappropriate language during a plenary session, the penalty is up to 40 per cent of the MP’s salary.

“The reason for making such a decision is, unfortunately, the inapropriate behaviour of deputies in the lobby and in the hall of the Assembly lately, and it turned out that the existing provisions of the Rules of Procedure did not cover all the possible situations that occurred in practice,” the parliamentary administration explained.

The changes to the parliamentary rules came after a series of outbreaks of violence including punching, slapping, pulling of hair and kicking in the legislature in recent months. 

The violence broke out between ruling majority lawmakers and opposition MPs from the Democratic Front alliance in February after parliament decided to strip the immunity of the Front’s two leaders, Andrija Mandic and Milan Knezevic over their alleged involvement in the last year’s failed coup attempt.

Similar scenes were seen on July 27 when the parliamentary legislation committee voted to remove the immunity of another four Front MPs, who were accused by the prosecution of being responsible for the violence in parliament in February.

The opposition parties have been boycotting parliament since last October’s elections, alleging poll irregularities and demanding snap elections are held by the end of this year, although some of them returned briefly to support their fellow MPs during the vote on removing their immunity.

They claim the new rules are intended to exert control over them.

Nedeljko Rudovic, an MP with the Civil Movement URA, told BIRN that the opposition is boycotting parliament over what he called the “political violence” of the ruling majority.

“Bullies cannot tell someone or prescribe how to behave... they cannot determine how the opposition MPs will act,” Rudovic said.

The Democratic Front said meanwhile that the new parliamentary rules were imposed as an attempt to “intimidate the Front”.

It argued that the regulations would not calm tensions among MPs, but increase it instead.

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