Lack of democratic consolidation in Montenegro

Ahead of 15 September 15 – the International Day of Democracy – the Centre for Civic Education (CCE) highlights the absence of essential democratic consolidation in Montenegro, along with ongoing political instability and a crisis of legitimacy within key branches of authority.

Montenegro is waiting for the third Government since the multi-decade regime change in 2020. Unfortunately, these long-awaited changes have not met the expectations of many citizens. The recent period has been marred by flagrant violations of the Constitution, laws, widespread abuse of public powers and resources, unfounded labeling of dissenting voices, etc. This is accompanied by a continuous trend of declining trust in the country’s institutional framework, which, in turn, negatively impacts the broader democratization and Europeanization of Montenegro. Furthermore, we are witnessing the accelerated societal re-traditionalization, causing established human rights to come under scrunity once again, accompanies by rising intolerance towards those who are different. This environment has seen also various forms of attacks on human rights activists and vulnerable groups.

Freedom House Reports underscore this concern, categorizing Montenegro among countries with transitional or hybrid regime. This designation represents a downgrade from its previous status as a partially consolidated democracy. This findings align with the CCE’s assessment that the new authorities have not introduced democratic improvements; instead, they have intensified existing issues while the country’s institutions continue to weaken.

The findings of the survey “What kind of state do we need?”, conducted by CCE in cooperation with Damar agency and the Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES), reveal that even 46.4% of citizens believe that politicians in Montenegro are not committed to ensuring equality before the law and the implementation of European standards for the rule of law. This seriously hampers the development of democracy. At the same time, over two-thirds (67.9%) of respondents state that the rule of law is not possible without accountability, transparency and equal treatment under the law. Beyond chronic mistrust in political parties, it is also indicative that 62% of citizens believe that it is necessary to change the electoral system in Montenegro, specifically the introduction of open lists that would allow voters to select their representatives based on individual preferences rather than party affiliation.

Although this year’s focus of the International Day of Democracy is young people, they are still not in the focus of the authorities in Montenegro, and peer violence and abuse are increasingly present in the school system without a systemic response. At the same time, young people who are traditional and religiously oriented express their wish to stay in the country, while those who have critical thinking plan to leave it in search of a better future. The survey of the attitudes of young people in Montenegro, which was carried out by CCE with the support of U.S. Embassy, also indicates that the majority of young people are not interested in political issues in our country and that they belive that their voice has no or very little influence on the activities of institutions.

Therefore, the content of democratic forms, which should be a guarantor of the functional rule of law and respect for human rights, as well as social welfare and a good standard of living, is suppressed by party and personal interests. Citizens find themselves in the spotlight during election campaign, while accountability for pre-election promises and the consequences of decisions remains a neglected concept among decision makers.

The International Day of Democracy, established in 2007 by the United Nations General Assembly, serves as a reminder  for governments to strengthen and consolidate democratic principles.

Mira Popović Trstenjak, Democratisation and Europeanisation Programme Coordinator