In Montenegro, parliament overthrew the government of Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic, who had been in office for just three and a half months. On the initiative of President Milo Djukanovic’s DPS party and four other parliamentary groups, 50 of the 81 deputies voted in favor on Saturday night. Eco-liberal Abazovic angered the head of state two weeks earlier because he had signed a controversial contract with the Serbian Orthodox Church.
For now, Abazovic is likely to continue to rule on an interim basis until a decision is made on his successor. Abazovic, 36, only took office on April 28 after the previous, largely pro-Serb government was overthrown in parliament. Like Djukanovic, Abazovic is considered pro-Western. He led a minority government, with a motley coalition that included his URA party, Greens, Social Democrats, ethnic Albanian and Bosnian parties, and a pro-Serb party.
Controversial church contract
“I’m very proud of everything we’ve done in 100 days,” Abazovic said after the vote. “We will be remembered as the government that had the shortest term but made the most difficult decisions.”
The church contract is considered controversial because it grants special rights to the Serbian-controlled Orthodox Church. His leadership never came to terms with the independence of the state of Montenegro. The former Yugoslav republic gained independence in 2006 – at the time in agreement with the Serbian state. Today, the Belgrade government is trying to regain more influence in the NATO country through the church and local pro-Serb parties and organizations.
Abazovic signed the church deal this month despite criticism from human rights groups and pro-Western political parties who claimed the church has too much power compared to other religious communities. In his view, the pact would solve a long-standing domestic political problem and help to bridge the gap between pro-European parties and those in favor of closer ties with Serbia and Russia.
Politics in the Adriatic country of just 625,000 has long been marked by divisions between those who identify as Montenegrins and pro-Russian Serbs, who oppose Montenegro’s independence from the former state union with Serbia.
Three days earlier, tensions between Abazovic and parliament also resulted in the failure to elect members to a politically independent judiciary council in parliament. The EU Commission has asked for this measure several times. The small Adriatic country has been a member of NATO since 2017 and intends to join the EU.