The Assembly of Montenegro was constituted after the parliamentary elections held on 11 June. President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, has assigned the task of forming a new government to his party colleague, the leader of the Movement for Europe Now (PES), Milojko Spajić.
Spajić has a deadline of 90 days to propose to the Parliament the composition of the cabinet and the future government’s program.
Milatović made this announcement after several days of consultations with representatives of the parties that won mandates in the June 11 elections. “Spajić has received support from entities holding 44 parliamentary seats,” stated Montenegrin President.
As things stand, the path to a stable parliamentary majority will neither be quick nor easy. The formation of the government could be prolonged, possibly even until November when the constitutional deadline expires.
The new government requires the support of at least 41 members of the Montenegrin Parliament, yet no party or coalition has secured a dominant majority.
PES has the highest number of seats with 24, followed by a coalition around the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) with 21 seats. The pro-Serbian coalition formed after the recent dissolution of Democratic Frond (DF) has 13 seats, while Democrats and URA have 11. Other parties, including those representing national minorities, have obtained only single-digit numbers of mandates.
The focus of Milojko Spajić’s campaign was a promise to increase the average salary in the country to 1000 euros, raise the minimum wage to 700 euros, increase minimum pensions to 450 euros, and shorten the eight-hour workday.
Spajić entered politics after the 2020 elections when he was appointed as the Minister of Finance in Zdravko Krivokapić’s government. During his tenure as minister, Spajić implemented the “Europe Now 1” program, which involved increasing salaries by removing healthcare contributions from employees’ earnings. After the downfall of that government in February of last year, Spajić and Milatović founded the “Movement Europe Now” party, capitalizing on the popularity of the salary increase program.
The movement emerged victorious in the local elections in Podgorica, Jakov Milatović defeated Milo Đukanović in the presidential elections, and “Europe Now” secured the highest number of votes in the June elections.
In addition to his “Movement Europe Now,” Spajić is explicitly supported by Aleksa Bečić’s Democrats, the pro-Serbian Socialist People’s Party, and parties representing minority populations such as Bosniaks, Albanians, and Croats. Considerably more reserved toward the new prime minister are the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) led by Milo Đukanović, as well as parties from the recently dissolved pro-Russian Democratic Front (DF) and Abazović’s URA.
Spajić has stated on several occasions that he does not see the DPS and Abazović’s URA in the new government.
Support from parties of national minorities, primarily the Bosniak party, will be crucial for the formation of the ruling majority. It is expected that minority parties could secure important ministerial positions in the government.
Stable government necessary for the continuation of the EU integration
“The initial measures entail addressing Chapters 23 and 24 of the acquis. The DPS regime has deeply undermined the fundamental integrity of the judiciary, and establishing an independent and efficient judicial system will be a lengthy process that necessitates the aforementioned skillful political balancing”, says for EWB Bojan Baća, member of Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG).
Answering the question of can political parties form a stable government after the June election, Baća says that since the vote of no confidence was passed to Abazovic’s government in August last year, the prolonged existence of his government in a caretaker mandate has actually been the institutionalization of a crisis – a kind of year-long instabilitocracy.
“The formation of a new government will be difficult, but it will also be an opportunity to see which parties are truly constructive players dedicated to the public interest and common good. This particularly applies to the ruling parties which, it seems, have no qualms about destabilizing post-election processes to secure their power in yet another extension of the caretaker mandate”, Baća explains.
Montenegro has been negotiating EU membership for 11 years, and European sources often cite a lack of political will to implement necessary reforms, primarily in Chapters 23 and 24, which pertain to the judiciary and the rule of law, as the reason for the prolonged negotiation period. Despite still being the most successful country in the European integration process, due to the political crisis that has been ongoing for two years, and in January of this year, due to the Constitutional Court blockade, Montenegro faced the threat of a blockage of accession negotiations.
The European Commission’s non-paper on the rule of law warned that Montenegro has lost focus on key EU reforms, particularly in the area of the rule of law. The document states that there was no progress in investigations, prosecutions and trials for old cases of violence against journalists and media workers.
As stated in the informal document, this year, the absolute priority of Montenegro should be to fulfill the critical deficiencies identified within the temporary benchmarks for negotiation chapters 23 and 24, the RTCG portal reports.
“All institutions and political forces should commit to work together with the clear goal of achieving tangible results in order to advance the accession negotiations,” the non-paper states.
It is said that the functioning of the entire justice system continued to face a deep institutional crisis. The non-paper assessed that many institutions continued to suffer from a lack of appointments or were operating in an acting state.
“This has significantly limited the capacity of the judicial system to function, with a weak or non-existent sense of direction and strategic planning/vision, which has affected Montenegro’s ability to administer justice,” the document states.
It is recalled that the Assembly appointed three judges of the Constitutional Court in February, which ended the unprecedented institutional blockade for Montenegro, which left the court without a quorum for decision-making between September last year and February this year.
Montenegro has not yet amended the Law on the Judicial Council and Judges, nor the Law on the State Prosecutor’s Office, in accordance with the recommendations of the European Commission and the opinions of the Venice Commission.
In the informal document, it is emphasized that the two laws are central pillars for the functioning of the judiciary in accordance with European standards.
“Finally, Montenegro failed to ensure that the key legal changes necessary for the success of reforms in the area of the rule of law are prepared in full accordance with European standards and the opinions of the Venice Commission, which remains the main concern,” the document states.
It is added that Montenegro, as far as media freedom and freedom of expression is concerned, has not yet adopted the media legislative package.