Montenegro Police Arrest Budva Mayor, Disperse Protesters

21:05, Wednesday, 24 June, 2020
Montenegro Police Arrest Budva Mayor, Disperse Protesters

From June 17, the mayor and town management have refused to hand over power, despite losing their majority in the local assembly.

Armed police surrounded the municipal building and used tear gas after protesters tried to enter it. Hundreds of people had gathered in front of the building, demanding that the new town management quit their offices.

Prime Minister Dusko Markovic said the police were just enforcing the law. “In Budva, we will apply state laws not the law of an organised mob. If there is no room for the reason the state will solve it in 15 minutes,” Markovic told the Montenegrin parliament on Wednesday.

Media reported that police evacuated new mayor, Vladimir Bulatovic after which the protesters start throwing stones at the police station. They also surrounded a police car trying to rescue Bulatovic, but police dispersed them with force and started making arrests. Media reported that special police blocked roads to stop the protests.

Opposition parties accused the government of putting pressure on citizens, claiming that the ruling party had engaged a private security company to stop the old city management from entering the building.

Media reported that private security members in white t-shirts were controlling the municipal building entrance. Markovic said the new town management had indeed engaged private security.

On June 17, police arrested Carevic, chief of the local assembly, and others, after they refused to hand over power. Media then reported that at least five local councillors were arrested. Hundreds of citizens gathered in front of the municipal building to protest the arrests, and what they called “police violence”.

Civil activists and opposition parties accused the police of breaching their powers during the arrests after media published a video of an officer kneeling on the neck of a town official, Mladen Mikelj while he was lying on the ground in handcuffs.

The arrests came after weeks of tension in the wealthy tourist resort between the local authorities, represented by the main opposition parties at the national level, and the Democratic Party of Socialists, DPS, which has run Montenegro for almost three decades.

The ruling coalition that won the elections in Budva in 2016, led by the opposition Democratic Front and the Democrats, had refused to hand over power after one of its councilors switched sides to support the DPS, which is headed by Montenegro’s veteran leader, Milo Djukanovic. As a result of this move, the opposition-run local government lost its majority in the assembly.

On June 11, the new DPS-led majority dismissed Carevic and Radovic and elected a new mayor and chief of the local assembly. Carevic accused them of forming a new majority through corrupt means, and on June 12, Radovic refused to allow the new management to take power in the town.

Budva was once the stronghold of former DPS vice president Svetozar Marovic. In August 2016, the former speaker of the Montenegrin parliament and the last president of the rump Yugoslav state pleaded guilty to corruption and agreed to serve nearly three years in prison. In April 2018 he went to Belgrade for medical treatment and refused to return to Montenegro.

He is obliged to return 1.2 million euros after he admitted abusing his political position to benefit a criminal group involved in property in his hometown of Budva.

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