Short and clear: How Montenegro got into a serious constitutional crisis
The February political crisis led to the overthrow of the first government formed after the ousting of the three-decade government of President Milo Đukanović’s party in August 2020.
The second, the minority government of Dritan Abazovic, elected to speed up European integration, “fell” after three months due to the adoption of a fundamental agreement with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
Montenegro is facing the election of a third government, which is advocated by the forces around the pro-Russian Democratic Front, or before extraordinary elections, which is the option of the pro-Western parties around President Đukanović.
The political struggle between these two groups has led the country into a new round of institutional crisis and European integration has almost come to a standstill.
Montenegro has been in the current crisis since 19 August, when a vote of no confidence was passed against the government of Prime Minister Dritan Abazović.
On 19 September, a slim majority of 41 MPs (out of a total of 81), led by the pro-Russian Democratic Front, the Democrats and the URA movement, demanded the election of a new government with a mandate from Miodrag Lekic.
President Đukanović refused to give Lekic a mandate to form a government on formal grounds, namely the failure to submit the 41 signatures of support on time.
Đukanović, with the support of his Democratic Socialist Party, the opposition bloc and minority parties, is proposing to dissolve the Assembly and call elections.
On 22. September, the parliamentary majority puts forward a motion to dismiss Đukanović, i.e. a petition on whether he has violated the Constitution, but the Assembly returns it for procedural reasons.
Đukanović can only be dismissed by Parliament if the Constitutional Court finds that he has violated the Constitution. However, this court has not been functioning since September.
The Democratic Front has announced that it will send a (consolidated) motion to dismiss Đukanović to the Assembly for a vote on 22 November.
On 30 September, the parliamentary majority refused to vote on Đukanović’s request to dissolve the Assembly.
At the proposal of the pro-Russian Democratic Front, on November 1, the Parliament adopted amendments to the Law on the President, which transfer the constitutional authority of Đukanović, in the part of the election of mandate holders for the composition of the Government, to the parliamentary majority.
To become legally binding, the law must be promulgated by President Đukanović, who rejects it and returns it to Parliament for a second vote. If it is passed again, it must be published within a short, unspecified deadline.
The Constitutional Court, the only institution competent to assess the constitutionality of the law on the President and the key to the orderly conduct of the elections, has been dysfunctional since mid-September because it has only three judges out of the seven it was supposed to have.
The last attempt to elect judges to the Court failed in the Assembly at the end of October because no candidate obtained the necessary two-thirds support of 54 MPs, and a second round of voting on 22 November requires 49 votes to be elected.
Đukanović’s DPS had earlier called on the parliamentary majority to withdraw from the presidential law and expressed its readiness to negotiate the election of Constitutional Court judges.
On 9 November, Đukanović asked the Venice Commission, an advisory body to the Council of Europe, for an urgent opinion on the amended presidential law, saying that a re-vote could overturn Montenegro’s constitutional order.
Representatives of the international community, the Quint countries and the European Union, expressing “deep concern”, called for solutions to the political and institutional crisis.
Montenegro has been a NATO member since 2017 and has opened all chapters and provisionally closed three in its membership negotiations with the European Union. There has been no progress in the negotiations over the last two years./RSE/