Challenges of the OSCE in Montenegro's Presidential Election

PeopleOther ♦ Published: March 9, 2023; 19:53 ♦ (Vindobona)

The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened an election observation mission for the March 19 presidential elections in Montenegro. The OSCE mission taking place in the former Yugoslav republic of Montenegro faces a country that had problems with the legality of elections and the circumstances in which they are conducted, now in the shadow of the Ukraine war and after a turbulent past few months of political conflict between the ruling parties in the country.

Cetinje's Blue Palace, the official seat of the Montenegrin President. / Picture: © Wikimedia Commons / AQVA121 / CC BY-SA 4.0 (

Montenegro will elect a new president on March 19. Long-term President Milo Djukanovic also wants to run again - the 61-year-old has held top political office for 32 years, he is controversial and increasingly unpopular. Djukanovic and his clan have built up a corrupt system in Montenegro; for example, he and his son were targeted by the public prosecutor's office in the Panama Papers affair.

In Montenegro, two camps are irreconcilably opposed to each other: The Djukanovic camp and a pro-Serbian, partly pro-Russian bloc. The fronts are hardened, and the political stalemate has led to a government crisis since the summer. Prime Minister Abazovic, who was ousted in a vote of no confidence, now governs only provisionally, and at the same time, the Constitutional Court cannot function because it is not fully staffed. The EU accession process of the small country in the Western Balkans threatens to come to a complete standstill.

The previous ruling party DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists), which had ruled the country for 30 years before 2020, was notorious for being not only strongly authoritarian, but also for maintaining close contacts with organized crime, to the extent that even the party leader Milo Đukanović and then Prime Minister was named "Man of the Year 2015 in Organized Crime" by the investigative journal OCCRP, which deals with organized crime.

Đukanović himself has also been in power since 1991, mostly alternating between the office of president and prime minister. While the president in the Montenegrin system of power-sharing is significantly weaker than the prime minister, these elections are seen as significant, as they could serve as a prelude to extraordinary parliamentary elections and a change in the political landscape in Montenegro.

OSCE observation mission

After an invitation from the national authorities, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) opened an observation mission for the 19 March presidential election in Montenegro.

Tamás Meszerics leads the mission with the help of 10 Podgorica-based experts. From 17 February, 14 long-term observers were deployed throughout the country by OSCE participating states. ODIHR also requested 100 short-term observers to arrive several days before the election.

As well as assessing the election's compliance with national law and OSCE commitments, the mission will also assess its compliance with international standards and obligations. Additionaly, the OSCE observation mission has to coordinate itself with European counterpart.

EP observation mission

A European Parliament delegation will also observe the presidential elections in Montenegro. The Rapporteur of the European Parliament for Montenegro, Tonino Picula, leads the EP delegation.

“The election that will be held in Montenegro will certainly be marked by the polarization that has been paralyzing the political life of the most advanced candidate country for EU membership for more than two years”, Picula said.

The EP delegation will monitor the legality of elections and the circumstances surrounding them. The delegation will analyze the campaigns of the candidates, monitor media coverage of the election, and meet with the candidates for president.


European Parliament