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Thousands in Montenegro clash with police over political tension

Protests held as lawmakers vote to adopt controversial law restricting president's powers to form government, police use tear gas to disperse protesters

Talha Ozturk  | 13.12.2022 - Update : 13.12.2022
Thousands in Montenegro clash with police over political tension People gather to demonstration against a controversial law on presidential powers, as Montenegro police officers the parliament building in Podgorica, Montenegro on December 12, 2022. ( Milos Vujovic - Anadolu Agency )


Clashes erupted on Monday in Montenegro between protesters and police during a parliamentary vote to adopt a controversial law that restricts the president's powers to form a government.

Police said that no one was seriously injured in the protest in the capital Podgorica, as they used pepper spray to disperse the angry crowd, who, as footage showed, pelted police with rocks, bottles, and other objects.

The political crisis between the pro-Western, and pro-Serb and pro-Russian parties in the small Balkan country has deepened in the past months.

Montenegro passed the controversial law, voted for the second time, on Monday with a narrow majority of 41 votes in favor in the 80-member parliament.

The law had been proposed by the Democratic Front alliance of pro-Serb parties.

Under the law, the president is obliged to propose a prime minister-designate if the candidate has the majority of the lawmakers in parliament.

If there is no majority, the president has to organize a second round of consultations with political parties and propose another candidate.

The law also enables a majority of lawmakers to sign a petition and propose a prime minister-designate if the president refuses to propose a candidate.

The constitution says the president has to organize consultations with parliamentary parties and propose a prime minister-designate with the signed support of deputies within 30 days.

Democratic Front MP Predrag Bulatovic said President Milo Djukanovic refused to give the mandate to form the government to the candidate who has the support of the majority of parliament and argued that the arrangement would solve the political crisis.

But Djukanovic refused to sign the decision and sent the controversial law back to the parliament.

The president called for an early general election and he described the move as a "constitutional coup attempt."

The process of forming a new government started after the government, led by Abazovic, failed to receive a vote of confidence on Aug. 20, which turned into a crisis.

The government, which stirred controversy with the "fundamental agreement" signed with Serbian Orthodox Church Patriarch Porphyria to give "official status" to the Serbian Church, fell as a result of the vote in the parliament.

While pro-Serbian parties nominated Miodrag Lekic, the leader of the civic Demos party, to form the government, the president refused to give the mandate to form the government to him as he did not fulfill the necessary conditions.

Djukanovic said early general elections could be held at the beginning of 2023.

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