Montenegro’s Opposition MPs Protest Against Anthem

Several MPs from Montenegro’s opposition alliance were absent from the chamber when the national anthem was sung at the parliament’s inaugural session, a gesture which may complicate inter-party relations.The new Montenegrin parliament was constituted on Tuesday. However, some of the 81 parliamentary seats still remained empty at the very start of the session, when the national anthem was played.

Eleven MPs from the Democratic Front, an alliance which came out as the strongest opposition force after the general elections in October vote with 20 MPs, were absent from the chamber for the singing of the national anthem.

Eight of the MPs belong to the New Serbian Democracy party, one of the principal partners in the alliance.

The three remaining MPs are all former members of the Socialist People’s Party, SNP, who joined the Democratic Front after their leadership failed to comply with the conditions that had been set for joining the alliance.

The protesting MPs want two verses, written by the controversial historical figure Sekula Drljevic, who was declared a war criminal by the communist authorities after the Second World War, to be removed from the anthem.

The opposition’s attempt to change the anthem have already stalled interparty talks about constitutional amendments aimed at increasing the judiciary’s independence in the first half of the year.

This latest protest may now also complicate the talks among the opposition parties as they seek to take power in Niksic, Montenegro’s second largest town.

In the local elections, held at the same time as the October general election, three opposition forces, Positive Montenegro, the Democratic Front, the Socialist People’s Party, won most of the votes.

Positive Montenegro, however, made its support for forming the local government conditional on the other opposition parties accepting a platform of ten political principles.

The principles include the recognition and condemnation of the war crimes that had been committed following the break up of Yugoslavia, a preparedness to cooperate with Kosovo’s local authorities, and full respect for the symbols of the Montenegrin state, including the national anthem.

Miodrag Lekic, the Front’s leader, as well as all the MPs from the Socialist People’s Party, which is also demanding changes to the anthem, were present at Tuesday’s singing of the anthem.

Lekic said that the fact that some of his MPs were absent from the parliament during the intonation reflected the plurality of the alliance.

Darko Pajovic, the leader of the Positive Montenegro party, however, told the media that the behaviour of the Front’s MPs may impact the opposition talks in Niksic.

The talks are expected to resume on Wednesday.

The media has speculated Positive Montenegro may try to form a minority government in the town on its own, if it fails to agree a compromise position with the Front.

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