Thousands of people protested against pro-Serb rallies in Montenegro

PODGORICA (Reuters) – Thousands of flags gathered Sunday evening in Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro, to protest the use of Serbian national symbols by opposition parties who won elections last week.

A general view of the main square during a rally at Podgorica, Montenegro, September 6, 2020. REUTERS / Stevo Vasiljevic

Participants said: “This is not Serbia” and “We do not give to Montenegro.”

The Western-Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), led by President Milo Jonukovic, who led Montenegro through the violent collapse of former Yugoslavia in the 1990s, lost parliamentary elections last week.

This will not be the first time a government has been formed since 1990, when the multi-party system was implemented.

Opposition parties, including the pro-Serb Democratic Front, celebrated their victory by waving Serbian flags and three fingers known as the Serbian salute.

Montenegro is deeply divided over its relations with Serbia – advocating some close ties with Belgrade and others opposed to any pro-coalition coalition.

On Sunday, people started gathering in Podgorica waving the national flag in the afternoon.

“As usual we came alone from Setinje to lend our support to Montenegro. We do not take away our (our) state!” Protester Milo Martinovic, who wore Montenegro’s traditional red hat.

The final preliminary count gave DPS 35.06% of the vote on Sunday. The final official result is expected in the coming days.

The Serb’s coalition of nationalist parties is named For the Future of Montenegro, which seeks closer ties with Serbia and Russia and is supported by the Serbian Orthodox Church, winning 32.55% of the vote.

Another two coalitions – a center-rights group called Peace is Our Nation and the URA Green Party-led coalition – which garnered 12.53% and 5.53% of votes, respectively, said they would join pro-Serb parties to form the government.

Opposition leaders, along with democracy and human rights organizations, have accused Jokanovic and his party of running Montenegro as their corrupt fiefdom, with links to organized crime. DPS and Djukanovic deny those allegations.

Reporting by Stavo Vasiljevic; Writing by Ivana Secularac; Editing by Louise Havens

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