PODGORICA – President of Montenegro Milo Đukanović called the parliamentary and local elections in the country for 30 August on Saturday.
According to the Office of the President, the decision was made following the consultation process with the parliamentary parties last week.
Previous parliamentary election took place in October 2016. The ruling Democratic Party of Socialists won the relative majority of votes. The election was marked by an arrest of several people accused of organising a coup against then Prime Minister Đukanović.
The elections in Montenegro are taking place against the backdrop of tensions that rose following the adoption of the Law on Religious Freedom at the end of 2019. The opponents of the law cite the provisions allowing it to potentially confiscate the property of Serb Orthodox Church (SPC), biggest religious organisation in the country.
“At the moment, we see numerous tensions, polarizations, and I think that to some extent European institutions can help find ways for the opposing parties to sit at the same table and find a solution to this issue”, Chair of the European Parliament Delegation to EU-Montenegro Stabilisation and Association Committee Vladimir Bilčik said yesterday, stressing that the issue needs a “European solution”.
Regular protests against the law were temporarily suspended by the COVID-19 pandemic, but the demonstrations continued in May following the arrest of a SPC bishop for holding a religious gathering at the time of restrictions.
Yet another controversy going into the elections took place at the city of Budva, where local government controlled by the opposition changed hands after several councilors changed sides. However, the mayor and the president of the local assembly refused to relinquish their positions, claiming that the decision on their replacement was illegal, which lead to their arrest.
Election in Montenegro will be the third national election in the Western Balkans this year, following the elections in Serbia on 21 June and North Macedonia on 15 July.