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Montenegrins March To Oppose Pro-Serb Rallies, Symbols Following Elections

Protesters in Podgorica wave national flags to protest the use of Serbian national symbols by opposition parties that preliminary results show won elections last week.
Protesters in Podgorica wave national flags to protest the use of Serbian national symbols by opposition parties that preliminary results show won elections last week.

PODGORICA -- Tens of thousands of people marched in Montenegro on September 6 to protest the use of Serbian national symbols by pro-Serbian opposition parties that claimed victory in elections last week.

People from various parts of Montenegro gathered in the capital, Podgorica, for the evening march to send a message that they would “defend an independent and civil Montenegro.”

Participants chanted, "This is not Serbia" and, "We do not give away Montenegro."

Three opposition alliances won 41 of the 81 seats in parliamentary elections on August 30 and have said they intend to cooperate in governing the small Balkan country.

The main alliance is named For The Future Of Montenegro, which seeks closer ties with Serbia and Russia and is backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church, won 32 percent of the vote, according to the final preliminary count. The alliance is led by the pro-Serb Democratic Front (DF).

Another two alliances - a center-right group called Peace Is Our Nation and the Black And White alliance, which together won 18 percent of the vote -- said they would join pro-Serb parties to form the government.

The final preliminary count gave the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) 35 percent of the vote. Final official results are expected in the coming days.

Tensions have soared in Montenegro since last week, when thousands of opposition party supporters held victory celebrations by waving Serbian flags, displaying Serb Chetnik symbols, and using the three-finger gesture known as the Serbian salute.

In the northern town of Pljevlja there were some serious incidents, including attacks on Bosniaks, as well as on the facilities of political parties and Islamic religious communities. The DPS has accused Serb nationalists, while opposition parties claim that DPS structures are behind the incidents. Police are still investigating.

For The Future Of Montenegro and its partners plan to form a government of experts to succeed President Milo Djukanovic, whom they accuse of corruption and of attacking critics of the government.

Djukanovic’s DPS led Montenegro to independence from Serbia in 2006 and established a partnership with the West.

Djukanovic repeated accusations during his campaign that the opposition was working for foreign Serbian and Russian interests.

It was not clear who had organized the march in Podgorica, which was peaceful.

Thousands Protest Use Of Serbian Symbols At Earlier Postelection Rallies In Montenegro
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The independent newspaper Vijesti identified numerous prominent politicians from Djukanovic's DPS party among those taking part. Most of the speakers presented themselves as "patriots."

Protesters who arrived from places where the coronavirus is still widespread had to provide a negative COVID-19 test or be quarantined on arrival. The government has already fully opened borders with neighbors Poland, Slovakia, Austria, and Germany, while also allowing unrestricted travel with Hungary.

With reporting by Reuters, AP, AFP, and dpa

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