Three members of Montenegro’s National Council for the Fight Against High-Level Corruption, including leading anti-corruption activist Vanja Calovic Markovic, quit the organization today after Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic took control of the Council from Deputy Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic.
Montenegro’s new government formed the National Council in January last year, establishing the six-member body with the intention of investigating corruption within state institutions.
Civic activist Dina Bajramspahic warned that Krivokapic is attempting to seize power within the government.
“The fact that the Prime Minister and a group of ministers are now taking over other functions in the government is an illegitimate concentration of power, characteristic of autocracies. It is the usurpation and suspension of institutions,” Bajramspahic told reporters.
“It means that Krivokapic and several ministers will run the entire government until a new one is formed, which will not be for a negligible time,” she said.
Montenegro’s political crisis worsened on 19 January when the ruling Black on White coalition, led by Abazovic, joined opposition parties in proposing a no-confidence motion in the government. The proposal came after the Deputy Prime Minister called for the formation of a minority government in an attempt to overcome a stalemate over reforms.
The following day, on 20 January, the government proposed shortening parliament’s mandate as a way of bringing elections forward, while speaker Aleksa Becic scheduled parliament’s no-confidence vote for 4 February.
By 24 January, Krivokapic had taken over the Ministry of Justice, Human and Minority Rights from Abazovic ally Interior Minister Sergej Sekulovic. That same day, Foreign Minister Djordje Radulovic was dismissed from his role as head of Montenegro’s European Union membership negotiations, with Krivokapic instead appointing the Minister for Economic Development, and close ally, Jakov Milatovic.
Prime Minister Krivokapic has also scheduled a National Security Council for 26 January, where he is set to seek Abazovic’s removal as head of the bureau for security services coordination. The Council could not hold a session yesterday after failing to reach the quorum.
In a recent report on Montenegro’s progress toward EU accession, the European Commission cited “some limited progress” in the fight against endemic corruption, but noted that corruption remained “prevalent in many areas.” The report cited corruption in Montenegro as an “issue of concern.”
Montenegro’s current government was elected on 4 December 2020 by 41 votes from three coalitions: the pro-Serbian For the Future of Montenegro, Peace is Our Nation and Black on White. The three blocs won a slim majority of 41 of 81 seats in parliament in August 2020, toppling Milo Djukanovic’s incumbent Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS.