A year in the political calendar of any country is not a small period, in democracies it is a quarter of a mandate in which the government has enough time to show how much it is worth. On the other hand, a year is also short enough to serve as an excuse for what it did not do or what it corrupted. The majority that entered the scene in Montenegro exactly one year ago, opted for the latter. This fits in with Churchill’s description of politician that “needs the ability to foretell what is going to happen tomorrow, next week, next month, and next year. And to have the ability afterwards to explain why it didn’t happen”.
The three-member coalition that took over the majority in Montenegro a year ago fulfilled what it was most recognizable for in Montenegro itself, and even more so in Europe, as a bloc that changed the 30-year dominance of Milo Đukanović’s Democratic Party of Socialists. However, it is only a policy of facts, which was known on the evening of August 30 last year, but not a program or platform, which should be waved as a success a year later. However, people from the new Montenegrin government still do that today, considering it their greatest success. In the night of the victory and the celebrations that followed, that is understandable, but a year later, it is just an ordinary excuse.
The most influential European governments and leaders, and especially the media, researchers, and experts on the Balkans, undoubtedly helped the new Montenegrin government to enjoy the laurels of the “historic” victory for too long. They praised the success of Krivokapić, Mandić, Abazović, Bečić as a democratic step forward, as a confirmation of the fundamental democratic principle of change of government. This was stated by the European Commission in the annual progress report, as well as the European Parliament in the annual resolution dedicated to Montenegro. Due to the “transfer of political power”, Montenegro advanced one point in the March annual report by “Freedom House” on the state of democracy in the world.
Is there, after a year, evidence that every political change is good for democracy, even this one because of which the new government in Podgorica was patted on the shoulder by those who “care” about it? Is Montenegro in a better condition today than a year ago when it was “indebted” by the leaders of the new winning coalition? Or maybe it has experienced degradation, in internal democracy, economy and development, in relations with the world?
Montenegro has been in a constant political crisis for the last year, it spills over into the whole society, keeps it under constant tension and ties hands to every other business, except dealing with itself. The generator and focus of the crisis are the Government in Podgorica, formed with great difficulty on December 4, in a way that has permanently disrupted relations in the ruling bloc. It does not have the full support of its members from the first day, its legitimacy is almost insignificant, and the personnel is already broken after six months of mandate and dismissal of the Minister of Justice Vladimir Leposavić. Its members are “experts”, without the direct support of political parties, including the Prime Minister, which is a constant source of instability of the ruling bloc, especially in relation to the convincingly largest member of the Democratic Front coalition.
An even bigger ballast is the conceptual disagreement of Krivokapić’s cabinet with the promises of the winning bloc to its electorate. Voters’ expectations are not seen in the policy of the new government, and especially its attitude towards NATO, and even the European Union, towards Kosovo, especially Serbia. The winner was expected to distance himself, or even leave NATO, move closer to Serbia, withdraw recognition of Kosovo, and “reconcile” with Russia. None of that expected discontinuity happened.
Again, in preserving the continuity with the inherited foreign policy obligations of Montenegro, and those were the expectations of the world, it stopped somewhere in the middle. Montenegro, under the new government, found it difficult to discredit its NATO membership when it was revealed that confidential information was leaking from the top of the government (the National Security Agency) to a “third party”, as Russia was euphemistically called. Approaching EU membership has practically stopped, although the new government has inherited all open negotiation chapters and three closed ones. In the spring, there was a danger that the negotiations would be interrupted, due to the unacceptable Law on State Prosecution for the EU, which was in the parliamentary procedure for adoption.
Despite the dominant pro-Serbian political sentiment within the ruling bloc, relations with Serbia have been strained to the maximum, and are a source of ongoing internal conflicts in Montenegro. It is similar about the attitude towards Kosovo, and even towards neighboring Albania. Voters of the new government expected changes, but there were none.
The wave, which began with a narrow victory in last year’s August elections, did not shake Đukanović’s DPS, although the new authorities and their supporters kept it at the very top of their expectations. A year later, with great disbelief and questioning, they state that the DPS has not been reduced, that it has consolidated, rejuvenated and that even from the opposition distance it can control important political events, such as the adoption of the resolution on Srebrenica and the removal of the minister of justice. In addition, Montenegrin President Đukanović has been its stable and constructive “pole” throughout the one-year cohabitation, unlike the government and parliament, whose internal conflicts made cohabitation difficult and inefficient.
Montenegro is on the verge of early elections, because the experience of the past year does not provide other options for restoring stability and overcoming the irreparable political crisis. Few of them have understanding of the maneuvers proposed by the quarreling leaders of the ruling bloc, such as the government reconstruction. Again, the one-year balance does not give each of them much hope for a good election result, and that fear of losing power is the only one that separates Montenegro from the new elections. But, let’s refer to Churchill again – Sometimes it is not enough to do our best; we must do what is required.