Freedom in the World 2017 - Montenegro

Freedom Status: 
Partly Free
Political Rights: 
Civil Liberties: 
Aggregate Score: 
Freedom Rating: 

While numerous political parties compete for power in Montenegro, the opposition is fragmented, and the governing Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) has been in power since 1991. Corruption is a serious issue. Investigative journalists and journalists critical of the government face pressure.

Key Developments in 2016: 
  • A number of irregularities were reported during October’s parliamentary polls, including alleged vote-buying by the governing DPS and an election-day shutdown of mobile messaging services. The opposition called the polls fraudulent and subsequently boycotted the parliament.
  • The DPS won the most seats in the elections, and formed a government with the support of smaller parties. Duško Marković became prime minister, replacing longtime leader Milo Đukanović.
  • On election day, authorities announced that 20 people had been arrested for allegedly plotting a coup, which reportedly involved a planned assassination attempt on Đukanović. Đukanović accused the opposition Democratic Front (DF) of involvement with the suspected coup planners, while the DF claimed that Đukanović manufactured the controversy to create an advantage for the DPS in the elections.
  • Jovo Martinović, an investigative reporter detained in late 2015 on charges of drug trafficking, remained in custody at year’s end.
Executive Summary: 

Prime Minister Milo Đukanović has served as either prime minister or president for most of the last two decades, and wields great influence in Montenegro. He framed the October 2016 parliamentary election as a choice between his administration, which had pursued membership to the European Union (EU) and North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), and opposition parties he decried as seeking to turn the country into a “Russian colony,” even as some opposition parties also supported NATO membership. His DPS posted the strongest performance in the polls, taking 36 seats in the 81-seat parliament—5 seats short of a governing majority. The DF, the main opposition party, took 18 seats. After several weeks of coalition talks, the DPS formed a government with several smaller parties that won representation, and the parliament then confirmed Duško Marković as the new prime minister in November. Marković was considered an ally of Đukanović, who as DPS chairman was expected to retain influence in the government.

Alleging electoral fraud, the opposition rejected the polls’ results, and boycotted the parliament throughout the rest of the year. While election monitors from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) ultimately assessed the polls as credible, numerous violations were reported, and the EU days after the election issued a statement of concern in which it called for fraud claims to be investigated. The Montenegro-based NGO MANS accused the Montenegrin government of trading tax or debt relief for votes, estimating that the DPS could have effectively bought as many as six legislative seats through such efforts. The government also suspended mobile messaging applications including Viber and WhatsApp on election day, citing “illegal marketing” taking place on the platforms.

Additionally, on the day of the election, the Montenegrin government arrested 20 Serbian and Montenegrin citizens on charges of plotting a coup; the group’s plans allegedly included breaking into the parliament, attacking police, and assassinating Đukanović. A few suspects were subsequently released but others remained in detention at year’s end, including figures described as Russian nationalists who had fought alongside pro-Russian forces in eastern Ukraine. Đukanović publicly accused the DF of plotting the alleged coup, but offered no evidence for his claims; the DF in turn accused Đukanović of manufacturing the events as a means of securing support for the DPS in the elections. Later in the year, Montenegrin authorities issued arrest warrants for two Russian and three Serbian citizens on charges of leading the alleged coup.

Journalist Jovo Martinović, known for his coverage of organized crime, was detained in late 2015, and in April 2016 was charged with involvement in a drug smuggling operation he had been investigating. He remained in detention at year’s end, and argues that his contact with members of the smuggling operation fell within his work as a journalist.

Political Rights

Political Rights 26 / 40 (–1)

A. Electoral Process 8 / 12 (–1)

A1. Is the head of government or other chief national authority elected through free and fair elections?
A2. Are the national legislative representatives elected through free and fair elections?
A3. Are the electoral laws and framework fair?


B. Political Pluralism and Participation 11 / 16

B1. Do the people have the right to organize in different political parties or other competitive political groupings of their choice, and is the system open to the rise and fall of these competing parties or groupings?
B2. Is there a significant opposition vote and a realistic opportunity for the opposition to increase its support or gain power through elections?
B3. Are the people’s political choices free from domination by the military, foreign powers, totalitarian parties, religious hierarchies, economic oligarchies, or any other powerful group?
B4. Do cultural, ethnic, religious, or other minority groups have full political rights and electoral opportunities?


C. Functioning of Government 7 / 12

C1. Do the freely elected head of government and national legislative representatives determine the policies of the government?
C2. Is the government free from pervasive corruption?
C3. Is the government accountable to the electorate between elections, and does it operate with openness and transparency?


Civil Liberties

Civil Liberties 43 / 60

D. Freedom of Expression and Belief 12 / 16

D1. Are there free and independent media and other forms of cultural expression?
D2. Are religious institutions and communities free to practice their faith and express themselves in public and private?
D3. Is there academic freedom, and is the educational system free of extensive political indoctrination?
D4. Is there open and free private discussion?


E. Associational and Organizational Rights 9 / 12

E1. Is there freedom of assembly, demonstration, and open public discussion?
E2. Is there freedom for nongovernmental organizations?
E3. Are there free trade unions and peasant organizations or equivalents, and is there effective collective bargaining? Are there free professional and other private organizations?


F. Rule of Law 10 / 16

F1. Is there an independent judiciary?
F2. Does the rule of law prevail in civil and criminal matters? Are police under direct civilian control?
F3. Is there protection from political terror, unjustified imprisonment, exile, or torture, whether by groups that support or oppose the system? Is there freedom from war and insurgencies?
F4. Do laws, policies, and practices guarantee equal treatment of various segments of the population?


G. Personal Autonomy and Individual Rights 12 / 16

G1. Do individuals enjoy freedom of travel or choice of residence, employment, or institution of higher education?
G2. Do individuals have the right to own property and establish private businesses? Is private business activity unduly influenced by government officials, the security forces, political parties/organizations, or organized crime?
G3. Are there personal social freedoms, including gender equality, choice of marriage partners, and size of family?
G4. Is there equality of opportunity and the absence of economic exploitation?


Scoring Key: X / Y (Z)
X = Score Received
Y = Best Possible Score
Z = Change from Previous Year

Full Methodology

Explanatory Note: 

This country report has been abridged for Freedom in the World 2017. For background information on political rights and civil liberties in Montenegro, see Freedom in the World 2016.