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Peaceful change of government in the Montenegrin way

At this time last year, Milo Đukanović and the American ambassador to Podgorica, Judy Rising Reinke, said that they were satisfied with the handover of power. On that occasion, in their conversation, congratulation was heard for the successful transition of power, “despite the troubles” and a gratitude for that congratulation. To clarify at the beginning, the topic was not the handover of power in Montenegro, but in Washington.


In the American, and not in the Montenegrin capital, an armed mob ran into the parliament building, at the invitation of its losing leader, with the idea of keeping him in power, even by force. The whole world watched in shock the scenes from Capitol Hill, where a violent stay in power took place after more than 200 years. A somewhat smaller part of the world was also shocked that the same thing did not happen in Montenegro after the August 2020 elections, Đukanović’s refusal to leave power, even by force. And they expected drama in Podgorica, just as they did not expect it in Washington.


People of various political beliefs, in Montenegro, the Balkans, Europe and America, were convinced that Đukanović’s DPS would not peacefully hand over power, which he lost for one parliamentary seat a year and a half ago. They said that even before the elections, some to motivate their voters, and others to point out their predictions as effectively as possible that the DPS and Đukanović are now finally leaving. After the election results, they were even louder, although neither before nor after the elections, apart from their political sympathies, they had no reason for such claims.


Although she sharply denies it, even the US ambassador to Podgorica was in that circle. If the well-known Montenegrin journalist and her sources are to be believed, Ambassador Reinke feared in a private conversation that Đukanović would take tanks to the streets if the DPS lost the election. All his opponents in Montenegro said that he would not hand over power peacefully, from Nebojša Medojević (“He will not leave peacefully, nor can he be replaced with walks.”), through Duško Knežević (“He will not allow a peaceful transition of power.“) to Dritan Abazović (“My impression is that he will not give up power voluntarily, or at least not so easily.”). The drama in Montenegro was also predicted by some important European media, such as Deutsche Welle (Đukanović will have to choose between exile or creating discord in Montenegro), as well as stars of the European expert scene, such as Florian Bieber, who was convinced that Đukanović and DPS “will not leave just because of the election results” and that he doubts that he will “accept it just like that” if they lose. The champion of failures, after all, was Gianluca Passarelli, the head of the international election observation mission, when half a year later he stated that the transition of power in Podgorica was “mostly” peaceful!?


This whole paranoid circle was, at the same time with predicting the chaos surrounding the handover of power in Podgorica, united in supporting the new government, for managing to change the 30-year rule of the DPS. They saw democracy in action, the realization of the principle of changeability of government as a key proof that democracy exists. It never occurred to them that these “evidences” of democracy would grow into their negation, exactly what did not happen in Podgorica with the departure of the DPS, and which they foresaw so strongly and probably wished for.


While the government of Zdravko Krivokapić is counting its last days, there are no former voices warning that it will not leave peacefully. And that’s exactly what’s happening. Since Dritan Abazović received support to start forming a minority government, Krivokapić, his ministers and supporters started street protests, and what is even more dangerous, decisions are made by which the outgoing government gathers power and authority that it does not have under the Constitution and laws. Some of its harsh critics are already talking about a coup.


While a year and a half ago there was worry of Đukanović’s counterattack, and even his tanks (although Montenegro does not have them), the transition of power went smoothly, as smoothly and quickly as the newcomers were capable of. When they got stuck in the constitution, and that happened often, it was Đukanović who hurried them, forcing them to respect the constitutional deadlines and take the helm. The change of government in Montenegro in the fall and winter of 2020 was an example of textbook democracy, and a positive one, just as the current transition of power in Podgorica can be an example, of course, a negative one.


It is possible that Krivokapić’s Minister of Education, Vesna Bratić, will eventually hand over power peacefully, but her behavior does not give much hope for that. First, she took to the streets to demonstrate against the change of her own government, along with several other ministers, which has not really been seen even in the Balkans. And the second, more dangerous and very close to the definition of the violent stay in power is her chauvinistic provocation of Bosniak and Albanian MPs, because they signed the request for a change of government. It seems that she just released the brake, which she kept with effort for a year as long as she is a member of the Government, felt relieved and maybe she is ready for anything.


At the moment, Montenegro is really facing a risky transition of power, and the source of that risk is exclusively its Prime Minister, its government and the coalition that has stood behind them so far. Few people in Montenegro warn about that risk, and no one in Europe. Just as wrong as a year ago, when they saw the danger to democracy and the proof of its existence where there were none.

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