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World News

President of Montenegro loses election after argument with Serbian Orthodox Church

by Cara Bentley

A 30-year rule has come to an end after the opposition focused on an unpopular law around church and nationalist identity. 

The President on Montenegro lost his seat this week to a right-wing coalition called 'For the Future of Montenegro'.

President Milo Djukanovic's pro-Western Democratic Party of Socialists had been arguing with the Serbian Orthodox Church over land and property for months, with Christians having their religious freedom squeezed. 

The small country which borders Serbia, and aspires to be an EU member, passed a controversial 'Law on Religious Freedom' in December 2019 that means a state-issued license was required to practise religion and many buildings could be taken out of the Serbian Orthodox Church's hands as they need to be registered with the state and approved by politicians. 

It was intended to establish Montenegro's own denomination more and create separation from the Serbian Orthodox Church and, in turn, Serbia, who they gained independence from in 2006. 

 

There were protests and priests were arrested. 

Lib Dem MP and Christian Tim Farron told Premier in July that President Djukanovic's motive "seems to be an old gangster-ish desire to acquire capital, to acquire buildings and resources, money for the regime - which is in poor financial shape. Either way, it leads to the persecution of people who are observant of their Christian faith.

"Montenegro is not a huge powerful country and is dependent upon patronage from others..it's also not a very wealthy country. One of the reasons why Djukanovic is doing this, we think, is because he wants to fill his coffers and he sees the Church as having lots of valuable property."

Although the authoritarian Democratic Party of Socialists lost, the winning group of more pro-Moscow and pro-Serbia politicians are unlikely to bring peace and freedom. 

For the Future of Montenegro is likely to be anti-western in policy and nationalistic. Some fear them creating a divisive society: treating Muslims as traitors and preventing the country gaining independence from the influence of Russia. 
 

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