He had to fall once

If Montenegro were a functional democracy, governments would change in election cycles. The Left, Right or Center would leave and return. The victory of the opposition would not be presented as the end of the world – a typhoon that will take away the country.

However, Montenegro is not a democracy. That’s why it is a miracle that Djukanovic lost the elections, despite the monopolies he holds, or, as OSCE observers would diplomatically say, his huge institutional advantage. Only Lukashenko in Belarus and Putin in Russia still have such an advantage in Europe. 

The government has completely controlled the elections here for decades, it had an army of safe voters, the media, huge funds, the security apparatus, electorate lists filled with phantom voters, and it still lost. This speaks not only of the erosion of a clientelist and corrupt order, which is slowly being abandoned by even the most loyal supporters, but also of the enormous democratic potential and desire of citizens to control power and trigger change.

Clearly: the Serbian Orthodox Church played a huge role in these elections. Djukanovic’s rival was his former ally, Metropolitan Amfilohije. But, it would be wrong to conclude that Djukanovic was overthrown only by the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Law on Freedom of Religion. His other, no less important, opponent was the civic Montenegro. Djukanovic could never fall just because of the Serbian Orthodox Church and the Law, even though it was a drop that spilled over the glass. After all, the Church was not engaged in the presidential elections in 2013, or the parliamentary elections in 2016. And in both of those cycles, Djukanovic lost, but the opposition was stolen the victory.

As much as propaganda wants to disguise – all nations voted against the DPS on Sunday, Amfilohije’s believers, but also atheists that are far from the Serbian Orthodox Church – dedicated citizens who believe that Montenegro needs a government which will build institutions, implement necessary economic reforms , establish a fairer income distribution, strong health and education systems, stop the departure of young people and professionals, reform the judiciary and introduce the rule of law, move faster towards the European Union and create a state for all.

All those who believe that the most sensitive issues should be resolved by compromises, and not by deepening divisions, also voted against Djukanovic. Governments committed to the public interest address sensitive issues through dialogue. Djukanovic did not have sensitivity for that. Instead of negotiating with the Church, he sought an enemy. This time he overplayed himself. And as Balsha Brkovic says: every dictator must fall once.

As in other autocracies, when leaders move out from reality – they get deposed, even when the whole security apparatus is on their side. Our dictator has been operating for a long time with uncontrolled power. He stepped out from the real world. He covered himself with the flag, anthem, language and the state, while he and his closest looted and destroyed our environment.

He surrounded himself with extreme Montenegrin nationalists (some of whom not so long ago fervently called for the restoration of Dusan’s Empire), or better with clients, who pushed him into ruins with constant demands to insert another letter in the alphabet and paint the history … As if the identity can be “rounded off” by force, whenever it comes to the leader’s mind, after he completely ruined everything Montenegrin while conspiring with Milosevic.

That Djukanovic was in a world of his own, with a narrowed consciousness, became clear when he announced the founding of a church at his, allegedly left, DPS party congress. As if Montenegro were not a secular state and as if churches are established by party decrees. A year before the elections, he and his hawks pushed the DPS into a conflict with the Serbian Orthodox Church, only to impose a new topic after the “Envelope” affair and stir conflict, and present himself as the only guardian of the state.

Concerned analysts, among them many of our friends from the ‘other’ Serbia and the region, perceive the change of government as the collapse of Montenegro, even as a threat to the stability of the region. It turns out, according to these interpretations, that this state can only survive as a dictatorship. Hence, one more cycle of thirty years should be granted to Djukanovic and his circle: to drive out the Russians, pacify the Serbs, round up the church, create a state-building opposition and, along the way, plunder whatever is left.

Accordingly, while Djukanovic is the guarantor for NATO, it does not matter what the nature of the government in Montenegro is like and how people live here. The fact that we are a hybrid regime, that we are suffocating in corruption and crime, that we are impoverished, that we have been negotiating with the EU for the longest time in history due to unwillingness to reform the system – is left aside, as long as the leader keeps the ‘correct’ strategic course.

If this country can only survive as an autocracy, under someone’s firm hand, then let it not be. Why maintain it by force.

The moment of truth has arrived. And although many followers thought that he was eternal, he is finished. Now it is only important that the transition is peaceful, that Montenegro becomes a country of all its citizens. There was too much revenge and conflict.

Milka Tadic Mijovic

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