Montenegro Activists Defy ‘Unlawful Protest’ Ban

Opposition politicians and activists pledge to continue protests across Montenegro, despite a police ban on ‘unauthorised’ demonstrations outside the capital.
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Hundreds of protesters in several major towns demonstrated on Monday against Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s administration, which they accuse of widespread corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud. The main opposition party alliance, the Democratic Front, launched daily protests in 15 towns across Montenegro after mass protests started in the capital city Podgorica on September 27. Activists organised protests in towns where the Democratic Party of Socialists – the party led by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic – holds the majority of local parliamentary seats.
Democratic Front leaders have called on other opposition parties to join the rallies and support protesters’ demands for the creation of an interim government to organise what they say would be Montenegro’s “first ever free and fair elections”.
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At demonstrations in several major towns, including Niksic, Budva, Bijelo Polje, Bar and Herceg Novi, protesters also called for early local elections and an investigation into the alleged misuse of state resources and political corruption. “We will show resistance to decades of legal violence, injustice, humiliation and electoral fraud, guided by the will of the majority of citizens of our community,” local opposition official Milan Zejak said during a protest in the town of Mojkovac.
The Interior Ministry said the opposition had failed to obtain approval to stage rallies in the 15 towns, saying applications to hold demonstrations were incomplete and were not submitted at least five days in advance, as the Law on Public Gathering requires. However, opposition leaders said they would continue protests in 15 municipalities no matter what the police said. Police said that even though the protests across the country were peaceful and no violations of public order were recorded, legal proceedings against the organisers will be launched “in each town in which more than 20 people protested”.
According to police estimates, only about 500 people demonstrated on Monday in the 15 towns, but opposition leaders claim it received the support of several thousand people. In Podgorica, representatives of the opposition, civic bodies and student organisations addressed protesters who have been rallying in front of the national parliament building since last week, where they set up a ‘tent city’ for demonstrators to stay overnight. “It is essential that all young people join the protests because there is no retreat, no surrender,” Nikola Goranovic, from the student organisation OSA, said.
Djukanovic has been in power since 1991 and is the longest serving leader in the Balkans and Europe.  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.
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06 October 2015