By Dusica Tomovic
Anti-government protesters took to the streets of Podgorica on Saturday demanding that the government resign and hold new elections.
Several hundred opposition protesters gathered in front of the parliament in Podgorica, demanding the resignation of Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic, who has held power since 1991.
Protesters carrying Serbian and Montenegrin flags shouted “Milo, thief!” and accused the governmnet of corruption, undemocratic practices and election fraud.
The pro-Russian Democratic Front alliance said the protests would continue until they achieved their goal – the resignation of the Djukanovic government, the formation of a technical government and the organization of the “first ever free and fair elections” in Montenegro.
The rally comes after crisis talks between the government and opposition over ways to organize the election failed on February 19. The talks stalled over the issue of control over the public broadcaster, RTCG.
The opposition demanded the dismissal of the director and editorial team of the television news programs, whom they accuse of biased reporting.
They also wanted the post of chief inspector in the intelligence service, the National Security Agency. Both the public TV and the security agency are considered vulnerable to abuses during election campaigns but Djukanovic’s party was not ready to give up its influence on them.
Speakers at the rally attacked three other opposition parties for not joining the protests in Podgorica.
One of the opposition leaders, Andrija Mandic, told the crowd on Saturday that there are no negotiations with PM Djukanovic except on formation transitional government.
“A few hours ago I arrived back from Russia, it is our most important international addresses but the government is building a hostile relationships with it,” he said.
The alliance strongly opposes Montenegro’s membership in NATO, and maintain close relations with Russian officials.
Joined by several student and human rights organizations, the Front began 24-hour demonstrations in September, demanding the creation of an interim government and Djukanovic’s resignation.
The protest first turned violent on October 17, when police fired tear gas to disband the crowds. More violence broke out on Saturday 24, after opposition MPs attempted to enter the parliament but were prevented from doing so by police.
Montenegro’s current government was elected on December 2012. It comprises Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists, the Social Democratic Party, and three ethnic minority parties. Regular general elections are not due till next autumn.