EU Fails to Sway Montenegro Opposition Over Boycott

September 21, 2017
An EU delegation to Montenegro has failed to persuade the opposition parties to call off their boycott of the country's parliament, as the political crisis looks set to continue.
 Photo: Pixabay.

Three-day talks in Podgorica launched by the Europeen Delegation in Montenegro to mediate with opposition parties ended on Wednesday with no breakthrough over the opposition boycott of parliament following last October’s elections.

Starting from Monday, the EU team met leaders of six opposition parties and coalitions to push the idea of negotiations with the ruling Democratic Party of Socialist, DPS.

However, the opposition parties said setting a date for snap elections was the price they wanted paid before starting any talks with the ruling party. 

The leaders of two centre-left opposition parties, Demos and the URA Movement, Miodrag Lekic and Dritan Abazovic, said after Wednesday’s meeting that their parties will not end the boycott until new elections are called.

Lekic said the meeting with the EU Delegation was useful but he could not “give a final assessment” of the talks.

“The government should first stop being arrogant and respond to our precise demands,” Lekic said.

Earlier meetings on Monday and Tuesday with the Social Democratic Party, SDP, Democrats and the pro-Russian Democratic Alliance ended on the same note.

The SDP leader, the former speaker, Ranko Krivokapic, said on Tuesday that the DPS was to blame for the stalemate.

“If they [the DPS] are not ready for new elections, let them be ready for what follows,” he warned, calling on the DPS to accept dialogue with the opposition as soon as possible.

The entire opposition bloc has boycotted the national assembly since the DPS won the October 16 election, demanding new polls and resolution to the so-called “coup” case.

Two opposition leaders face terrorism charges over claims that, in league with Russia, they plotted a coup against the pro-Western government last October to stop it taking Montenegro into NATO.

The opposition leaders want the new election held no later than spring 2018, when the presidential election is scheduled. The DPS has urged them to return to parliament first and then to discuss resolution of the crisis.

The opposition is also divided, however. Hardliners in the Democratic Front proposed the formation of a shadow parliament and government, but moderate opposition parties rejected this idea, and a proposal to organise anti-government protests across the country.

Meanwhile, on Tuesday, three representatives of the Democratic Front were detained on money laundering charges.

Journalist Iva Pavlovic and two Front youth representatives, Luka Radunovic and Peter Draskovic, face charges that the alliance said formed part of a campaign to “persecute” the political group.

Front leader Nebojsa Medojevic faces similar charges. One of the sharpest critics of the government and of the ruling party, he is accused of plotting to help a businessman from Bosnia to evade taxes and of money laundering.

In July, several opposition MPs spent five days in parliament, blocking the detention of Medojevic, after his parliamentary imunity was stripped and after the prosecution asked for his arrest in connection with corruption allegations.