Montenegrin police fire teargas to break up crowd demanding PM quit

Reuters News
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Posted: Oct 24, 2015 4:38 PM

PODGORICA (Reuters) - Police in Montenegro on Saturday fired teargas for the second successive weekend to break up around 5,000 protesters who marched on parliament to demand the resignation of veteran Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic.

The rally began mainly peacefully, but tensions rose as the demonstrators, calling for a new interim government and snap elections, converged on the parliament building which was cordoned off by police.

The opposition says the former Yugoslav republic of 680,000 people is run as a fiefdom of Djukanovic, who has been in power for two decades, and the political elite surrounding him. The government rejects the charge.

Milan Knezevic, a top-ranking official of the opposition Democratic Front, which is at the forefront of the protests, said the country was at a historic turning point.

"Our message to Milo Djukanovic is ... to answer our democratic speeches and accept the creation of an interim government and organize the first fair and honest elections," Knezevic told the cheering crowd.

Montenegro is a candidate to join the European Union and is expecting an invitation to join NATO. It is scheduled to hold a parliamentary election next year.

But Western governments and rights groups remain concerned over the level of organized crime and corruption, which flourished during the break-up of Yugoslavia in the 1990s.

Before the protest, a group of opposition supporters pelted the Albanian embassy in downtown Podgorica with stones, damaging its exterior. Both the Montenegrin government and the Albanian embassy condemned the incident.

The opposition movement combines pro-Western parties and pro-Serb elements who cherish close ties between Montenegro and Belgrade. The latter oppose Montenegrin recognition of Kosovo, a majority ethnic-Albanian country which declared independence from Serbia in 2008.

(Reporting by Petar Komnenic; Writing by Aleksandar Vasovic; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)