Montenegro’s pro-Western party enjoyed an unfair advantage during parliamentary elections due to its access to state resources and misuse of office, according to Western observers.
The Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), which has ruled for 30 years, also benefited from greater press coverage, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) said in an August 31 statement.
Nonetheless, the pro-Serb Democratic Front (DF) and two other opposition coalitions claimed victory over DPS in the razor-thin August 30 parliamentary elections. Preliminary unofficial results indicated the opposition won 41 of 81 seats.
President Milo Djukanovic, leader of the DPS, said his party will respect the result but did not yet concede.
“This was a hard-fought campaign, but the ruling party benefited from an uneven playing field,” OSCE Parliamentary Assembly Vice-President Margareta Cederfelt, who is special coordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observers, said in the statement.
The OSCE said the elections were held in “patchy compliance” with legislation, pointing out that political rallies were banned due to the coronavirus pandemic even though there was no state of emergency declared inside the country.
The election observers also faulted the lack of independent editorial coverage of the candidates and parties, which it said was the result of politically affiliated business interests controlling national media.
“It is most regrettable that the gaps in the legislation and lack of independent media scrutiny make the misuse of office and state resources possible,” Tamas Meszerics, head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, said in the statement.