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Freedom Calling in Montenegro?

Freedom Calling in Montenegro?

Podgorica, Montenegro, site of September 27’s Freedom Calling rally (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro—the successor party of the regional Communist Party—has been in control of the government since 1991. Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic has served as Montenegro’s president or prime minister for most of that time. Opposition movements in Montenegro are gathering for a “Sloboda Trazi Montenegro” (Freedom Calling) rally in Podgorica on September 27.

In an interview via Skype with Fedja Pavlovic last week, he described the rally as a response to the people’s loss of faith in elections. OSCE election observers have reported a “general lack of confidence” in the electoral process, the judiciary, and investigatory bodies in the 2013 presidential and 2012 parliamentary elections. With this Freedom Calling rally, they are resorting to political protests of the kind that brought down Serbia’s Slobodan Milosevic in 2000.

Pavlovic said the organizing Democratic Front coalition sees the ruling regime as “Putin-ist”—more interested in security and oligarchy than democracy. The coalition’s web site, in the introduction to its 595-point plan, called the Djukanovic government authoritarian, criminal, and oligarchic.

A 2014 European Commission report raised a number of concerns about the government, ranging from corruption, political party financing, restrictions on freedom of expression, violence against journalists, and lack of public trust in the electoral process and state institutions. According to Balkan Insight, the government seems intent on following some of these anti-corruption recommendations, with a series of arrests in 2015. Meanwhile, intra-regime fighting may be spilling out into the public, with a recent bombing of a popular café.

Concerns about freedom of expression and freedom of the media are particularly important, Pavlovic said. Reporters Without Borders noted the 2004 murder of Dusko Jovanovic, publisher and editor of Dan, a newspaper critical of the prime minister. Freedom House assesses Montenegro’s press status as “partly free,” with concerns about fines for government critics and “threats, attacks, and vandalism of their property, with new incidents reported each year, leading to increased self-censorship.”

The goals of the Democratic Front’s 595-point plan address these issues but also almost every aspect of government and society. The list includes democratic, civil society, rule-of-law, judicial reforms; combating organized crime and corruption; real protection of human rights and civil liberties, including freedom of the media; improved relations with Balkan neighbors, the European Union, and Montenegrin diaspora; a market economy; fiscal and monetary stability; the strengthening of agriculture, forestry, higher education, health care, transportation, infrastructure, and the metals and tourism industries; the de-politicization of culture, entertainment, and sports; improved social welfare, labor, environmental, and social justice policies; and services for the disabled, young, elderly, struggling families, and displaced persons.

Pavlovic said the organizers expect a broad spectrum of the population to turn out to the rally—not only young people, but everyone from single moms to retirees. He expects support from diaspora as well as “quiet allies” in Europe. Freedom Calling wants the government to resign, replaced by an interim government and democratic elections.




Jim Quirk

Jim Quirk teaches American and comparatiive politics at American University in Washington, D.C. He has taught at Loyola University Maryland, The Catholic University of America, and the University of Economics in Varna, Bulgaria. His favorite projects have included work with in Mexico, Russia, the Balkans, the Kurdistan Region of Iraq, OSCE, IEEE, and the Open World Leadership Center. He tweets from @webQuirks