Democratic lessons are hard to learn in Montenegro

On the occasion of 15 September – the International Day of Democracy – the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls on decision-makers to be responsible and to put the public interest of citizens in focus, in order to exit the current political-economic crisis.

The findings of the MNE Pulse from July 2022, a joint initiative of the CCE and DAMAR agency, indicate that almost a third of citizens of Montenegro believe that the country is in a crisis, which is an increase of 11% compared to November 2021, when that data also caused concern.

In August 2020, Montenegrin voters, for the first time after 30 years, changed the government in the elections, and that event brought a lot of expectations in terms of the democratic transformation of the country. However, it turned out that party and individual interests overpowered democratic values. Among other things, instead of establishing a merit-based system, as the coalitions that won in August 2020 promised, we got a party cadre only with cadres from other parties. This continued the bad practice from the era of the DPS government, because a message was sent to those who are not part of the party structures that, regardless of their knowledge and skills, they are worthless without a membership card of the ruling parties.

Additionally, the wave of clericalization strongly polarized society, and the influence of religion on socio-political discourse and decision-makers had a negative impact on the state of human rights, especially for the most marginalized groups, such as LGBTIQ, but also for women, as there is an enormous increase of misogyny.

Neither human rights nor European integration, and therefore neither the rule of law nor democracy, were the focus of the new authorities. The dismissal of the Government of Zdravko Krivokapić gave the basis for the belief that some lessons were learned, but the Government of Dritan Abazović continued to force priorities that further divided society and distanced us from the EU. The CCE points out the ongoing problem of neglecting the public interest of those who come to power, particularly the executive branch. Our road to the EU is practically stopped, and it is not certain when it will be unblocked.

CCE expresses concern that the negotiations of party subjects are only trade for a piece of power, while care for citizens remains at the declarative level, and democracy is hard to learn.

In 2007, United Nations General Assembly declared 15 September as the International Day of Democracy to promote the role of government in preserving open democracy among all UN member nations and to celebrate the value system that democracy promotes, giving citizens the opportunity to participate in decision-making that concerns all aspects of their lives.

Željka Ćetković, Active Citizenship Programme Coordinator