Balkan government toppled in no-confidence vote — Analysis

Montenegrin Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic’s cabinet has become the most short-lived in the country’s history

On Saturday, the Montenegrin parliament passed a motion of no confidence against Prime Minister Dritan Aazovic’s government. With his premiership ending after just four months, Abazovic was the shortest-serving leader since Montenegro’s independence from Serbia in 2006.

After a 12-hour sitting of parliament that began on Friday, 50 out of 81 MPs voted against Abazovic’s coalition government, ending his tenure as prime minister. 

After Abazovic had signed an agreement earlier in the month with the Serbian Orthodox church, the Democratic Party of Socialists of President Milo Djukanovic called the vote. Critics say the pact gives the church exclusive rights that do not extend to other faiths.

Serbs, a majority of whom opposed Montenegro’s independence from Serbia in 2006, make up around a third of Montenegro’s population. The Serbian Church is viewed by pro-European Montenegrins as an outlet for Russian and Serbian influence.

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Abazovic, an ethnic Albanian, insisted that the deal would resolve religious disputes and allow his government to focus on meeting the EU’s requirements for membership. Montenegro, an EU country candidate, has made little progress since 2010. A 2021 European Commission report revealed that Montenegro’s efforts to tackle political infighting, corruption in the judiciary, organized crime (especially tobacco smuggling) and money laundering had been limited.

Abazovic addressed legislators after the defeat of the no-confidence motion and suggested that it was criminal groups who influenced the outcome. 

“This country is going to be ruled by either criminals or citizens.”He stated. “And, I’m sorry… that Montenegro organized crime still uses its tentacles in order to regulate political relations.”

Djukanovic has been serving as president and prime minister of Montenegro over the last three decades. He was also named in the leak of 2021 Pandora Papers as being accused of funnelling cash to various offshore trusts. Djukanovic has also been accused of anti-Serb discrimination, particularly after his party sponsored a law in 2019 that would have transferred much of the Serbian Orthodox Church’s property to the state of Montenegro.

Djukanovic, an uncompromising pro-Westerner called out protesting Serbs as legislators wrangle over proposed legislation “lunatics.”

Abazovic is likely to remain in power until either a successor or snap elections are called. He is the second successive Montenegrin premier to be defeated by a no-confidence vote this year, after Zdravko Krivokapic’s government was ousted in February. Krivokapic had only been in power for a little over one year. He backed Orthodox churches against the 2019 law.

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