Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Rama
An alliance of ethnic Albanian parties, the Albanian Forum, won a victory in Sunday’s historic first local elections in Tuzi, a newly formed municipality in Montenegro.
Thanks to a boost from diaspora voters, the alliance won 16 of the 32 seats, exactly half of the seats on the municipal council.
It is expected to cooperate with the opposition Democratic Montenegro party, which holds one seat, in order to have a majority.
Preliminary results suggest Montenegro’s ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, and its traditional partners, won the other 15 seats.
Supporters of the forum celebrated on the streets with Albanian flags and national songs.
“We have shown that united Albanians can do a lot. We united the diaspora and the Albanians in Montenegro,” the first man of the Albanian coalition, Nik Djeljosaj, said.
The Tuzi area borders the capital, Podgorica, on one side and stretches to the border with Albania on the other. It is also known as Malesia.
Historically, it was an independent municipality, but it lost this status in 1957. Its old status was restored last year.
Sunday’s elections saw a high turnout, due to the many members of the diaspora who came back from US and from Europe to vote and support the Albanian coalition.
“I took some days off from work, bought a plane ticket and came to vote. I felt that as an Albanian I should help my compatriots,” said Sead Nikaj, who came all the way from the US.
Montenegro is a multi-ethnic state and is highly unusual in having no overwhelming community that makes up over half of its population.
About 45 per cent of the population identify as Montenegrins and about 29 per cent as Serbs. Albanians make up about 5 per cent of the population.
There is little tension between Albanians and the dominant Montenegrins. But there has long been a demand for Tuzi to become a municipality again.
During the election campaign, the Albanian parties enjoyed open assistance from officials from neighbouring Kosovo and Albania.
Flamur Gashi, advisor to President Ilir Meta of Albania, visited Tuzi on the eve of the election and invited citizens to vote for the Albanian coalition.
Kosovo President Hashim Thaçi and Albania’s Prime Minister Edi Rama made similar calls for Albanian unity at a Diaspora Summit in Tirana last week.
“Where Albanians get together, they get better and win,” Rama at the summit in Tirana.
Albania’s Foreign Ministry also provided support calling people to vote for Albanian forum.