Montenegrin protesters plan daily protests until the prime minister steps down, as thousands attend Sunday’s anti-government rally in Podgorica.
28 SEP 15 balkaninsight Dusica Tomovic BIRN Podgorica
Thousands of people gathered in front of the parliament building in Podgorica on Sunday at a mass rally against Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s administration, which they accuse of widespread corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud.
Protest organisers the Democratic Front, an alliance of the main opposition parties, said peaceful protests would continue to be held daily at 6.30pm local time until Djukanovic resigned.
They are demanding the creation of an interim government to organise what they say would be Montenegro’s “first ever free and fair elections”.
“There is no destruction, no violence. Police officers will be with us for a few nights. This will happen in other towns in Montenegro,” said Andirja Mandic, leader of the pro-Serbian NOVA party.
“We won’t power won on the street but in fair elections. Democratically and peacefully, we will win freedom. This fight has just begun,” he said.
Anti-government protestors set up dozens of tents in a park opposite the parliament building for protesters to spend the night in until the next rally that is planned to take place on Monday.
‘We will stay at the plateau [outside the parliament] until our requirements are met. We do not accept blackmail and partial solutions,” Strahinja Bulajic, one of the Democratic Front alliance leaders said.
According to the organisers about 400 people spend the night in the tents.
Ahead of the rally, protesters poured into a one of the major squares in central Podgorica from other Montenegrin towns such as Niksic, Kolasin and Berane. Shouting anti-government slogans, most were waving Serbian flags.
Security was tight and barricades were set up around the parliament building amid fears the demonstration could turn violent. But the rally passed off peacefully, there had been no arrests or scuffles.
The opposition is also planning a series of anti-Djukanovic rallies across the country. He has been in power since 1991.
The current coalition government was formed after the 2012 elections. It comprises Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists, the Social Democratic Party, and three ethnic minority parties. The next general election is not due until spring next year.
In order to finance the protests, but also to increase citizen involvement, the Democratic Front launched a crowdfunding campaign, aimed at being “the first democratically financed protests for democracy”.
In addition to involving resident Montenegrins, the campaign is also seeking support from the widespread diaspora community and foreign pro-democracy activists.
Recent EU reports have criticised the state of the judiciary and urged the government to make more effort in the fight against organised crime and corruption.
The Democratic Front first began calling for public demonstrations against the government in May, taking its demands for a government crackdown on corruption and action to improve the economic situation to some of the least developed municipalities in the north of the country.
The alliance said during discussions with citizens of different political, ethnic and religious affiliations it had received support to start protests against what it called the “criminal and incapable” Montenegrin government.
Montenegro is the only European country in which the government has never been replaced in a democratic election, the alliance added.
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