Opposition cries foul amid stalemate election in Montenegro

Montenegro's opposition claimed yesterday that an inconclusive parliamentary ballot was packed with irregularities, including the blocking of popular messaging services WhatsApp and Viber by authorities on election day.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic celebrates after parliamentary elections in Podgorica. Picture: AFP/Getty Images

Prime minister Milo Djukanovic’s long-ruling party won the most votes in Sunday’s election, but without enough support to govern alone.

Both the opposition and the Democratic Party of Socialists will now have to try form a governing coalition with several small groups represented in the 81-seat parliament.

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

Sign up to our Politics newsletter

The outcome of the coalition negotiations will determine whether the state continues on its current course towards the West or turns back to traditional ally Russia. The tense election was marked by the arrest of 20 people, including a former commander of Serbia’s special police forces, suspected of planning politically motivated armed attacks against Djukanovic and his supporters.

Opposition leaders claim that thousands of their supporters were rounded up by the police on election day.

Authorities blocked Viber and WhatsApp for hours on Sunday, saying “unlawful marketing” was spread being through the mobile networks on the election day.

“Blocking such apps is unthinkable in any normal country.

“I have never heard of that happening anywhere ever in an election,” said opposition party leader Ranko Krivokapic, who has monitored elections for the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe in the past. While pointing out the need for further improvements, the OSCE vote-monitoring mission said in its report the elections “were held in a competitive environment and fundamental freedoms were generally respected.”

The report also noted that “the blocking of access to Viber and WhatsApp services on election day by the Agency of Electronic Communications caused concern.”

Djukanovic, a former communist turned pro-Western supporter, has ruled the small Balkan state for 27 years
with a firm hand either as its president or prime minister. He was pivotal in the country’s split from much larger Serbia in the 2006 referendum.

“The police junta did everything to keep Djukanovic in power,” opposition Democratic Front leader Andrija Mandic said, calling for a “transitional government that will not allow this brutal police interference in the electoral process.”