Montenegrin PM survives confidence vote, but partner deserts

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic survived a confidence vote in parliament on Wednesday in the wake of an invitation to join NATO, but had to rely on the votes of an opposition party after his own coalition partner abandoned him.

Montenegro's Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic addresses the 68th United Nations General Assembly at U.N. headquarters in New York, September 27, 2013. REUTERS/Eduardo Munoz

The vote signaled the end of a political alliance between Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the smaller Social Democratic Party (SDP) dating back to 1998.

Their partnership has long been shaky, with the SDP regularly rebelling mainly over economic policy.

Djukanovic, who has led the former Yugoslav republic as either president or prime minister, with one brief pause, for the past 25 years, faces a regular parliamentary election anyway later this year.

The SDP’s desertion, however, injects some uncertainty into the vote and its outcome.

Djukanovic’s government won the confidence motion, which he submitted after NATO in December invited Montenegro to join the military alliance, by 42 votes to 20 in the 81-seat parliament. The rest were not present.

He managed to garner the support of the opposition Positive Montenegro party, which said it had won concessions from Djukanovic to draft opposition representatives into certain ministries in order to create conditions for a free and fair election later this year. The details of the deal were not clear.

“I consider the plan of Positive acceptable,” Djukanovic told the assembly. “I invite all opposition parties to enter the government.”

The opposition accuses Djukanovic’s DPS of running the Adriatic country of 650,000 people as a fief, allowing organized crime and corruption to flourish in the years since federal Yugoslavia fell apart in war in the early nineties.

Djukanovic denies the accusations and will enter this year’s election on the back of the NATO invite and having made progress in accession talks with the European Union.

“Our concept offers what everyone in the opposition wants – free and fair elections,” Positive Montenegro leader Darko Pajovic told lawmakers. “We don’t agree with the DPS on internal politics, but our policy aim is Euro-Atlantic integration.”

But SDP leader Ranko Krivokapic, having abandoned his alliance with Djukanovic, condemned the deal.

“The government is creating a (parliamentary) majority under suspicion of political corruption,” he said. “Victories that are not based on the free will of the people cannot last.”

Writing by Matt Robinson