Demonstration Alert by US Embassy in Podgorica ahead of August 30 Poll

The US Embassy in Podgorica has warned of peaceful demonstrations in Montenegro which have the potential to become violent. This was said on Friday in a ‘demonstration alert’ release carried by its webpage on the occasion of the parliamentary elections to be held in Montenegro on August 30.

“Montenegro will hold national parliamentary elections on Sunday, August 30, 2020. Please be aware that the possibility of large crowds and gatherings exists. Keep in mind that even peaceful demonstrations have the potential to become violent. The global COVID-19 pandemic creates additional safety concerns,” said the Embassy in its warning addressed to US citizens.

Among ‘actions to take’ the US Embassy’s list is as following: Avoid demonstrations; Exercise caution if unexpectedly in the vicinity of large gatherings or protests; Monitor local media for updates; Keep a low profile; Wear a mask while outside of your residence; Maintain social distancing to decrease your chances of infection.

In the meantime Montenegrin police has claimed that provocateurs are trying to incite violence during the parliamentary elections on Sunday, while the opposition claimed authorities were trying to create a climate of fear, reported BIRN on Friday.

The political atmosphere in Montenegro has become increasingly heated ahead of Sunday’s parliamentary elections, with officials alleging that polling day could be disrupted by opposition protests and violent unrest.

Montenegrin Prime Minister Dusko Markovic on Wednesday accused the pro-Serb opposition alliance For the Future of Montenegro of planning protests on polling day, insisting that the information has been confirmed by the security services. “We will respond to them fiercely on August 30,” Markovic said at a gathering of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists.

The head of the Montenegrin police, Veselin Veljovic, also said on Wednesday that some individuals and organised groups are planning to provoke incidents and polling day.

“Our findings indicate that these people, through social networks and other channels, are advocating that during the voting and after polling stations are closed, citizens take the streets and cause riots,” Veljovic said in a press release.

On Tuesday, the Montenegrin Special Prosecutor for Organised Crime, Milivoje Katnic, alleged that “extremist groups” are “ready to gather and declare victory before the official election results”.

But the opposition accused the authorities of spreading fear before Sunday’s elections to help the ruling coalition to victory. One of the opposition Democratic Front leaders, Milan Knezevic, said that there will be no violent incidents on Sunday.

“We will decide about the future of Montenegro with pencils [on ballot papers]. We are not planning riots or violent takeovers,” Knezevic told a press conference.

The elections come amid continuing protests against a controversial law on religion, which the Serbian Orthodox Church in Montenegro – whose relations with the government are poor – claims would allow the state to rob it of its property.

Last Sunday, hundreds of people took to the streets of towns across Montenegro to protest against the law after leading Serbian Orthodox bishop Amfilohije Radovic urged people to vote “for the saints and against the lawless” at the parliamentary elections.