Clashes at Montenegro protests amid political tension

Dec 11, 2022, 10:09 PM | Updated: Dec 12, 2022, 12:18 pm
Montenegro riot police guard the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monda...

Montenegro riot police guard the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

(AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

              Montenegro riot police guard the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
            
              Montenegro riot police guard the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
            
              Protesters light torches during a rally in front of the parliament building in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
            
              Montenegro riot police guard the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)
            A Montenegro riot police officer guards the parliament building during clashes in Podgorica, Montenegro, Monday, Dec. 12, 2022. Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO. (AP Photo/Risto Bozovic)

PODGORICA, Montenegro (AP) — Clashes erupted on Monday during an opposition protest in Montenegro reflecting a deep political crisis between the pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russian camps in the small Balkan country that is a member of NATO.

Montenegrin police used pepper spray against hundreds of protesters who threw rocks, bottles and other objects during a demonstration outside the parliament, said a police statement. No one was seriously injured, police said.

The protest was held as lawmakers inside the parliament building voted to strip the country’s pro-Western president of a decisive role in appointing the prime minister. The law was pushed forward by the pro-Serb and pro-Russian majority in the parliament, angering the pro-Western opposition.

The disputed law was passed on Monday by 41 lawmakers in the 80-member parliament.

The U.S. embassy in Podgorica called for calm.

“The United States urges an immediate return to a calm and constructive discourse,” the embassy said on Twitter. “We call on all Montenegrin leaders and citizens to keep talking and find peaceful solutions to political problems.”

Montenegro, a key Western ally in the Balkans, has been paralyzed by a months-long government crisis that has stalled the country’s European Union membership integration process. Montenegro’s government fell in a no confidence vote in August and a political stalemate has persisted since then.

Montenegro’s political crisis has sparked concerns of instability as the war rages in Ukraine. Since it became independent in 2006 from much larger Serbia – Russia’s key ally in Europe – Montenegro has remained deeply divided among pro-Western and pro-Serb and pro-Russia groups.

The latest tensions soared after pro-Western President Milo Djukanovic rejected a nomination from the prime minister from the pro-Serb coalition, citing procedural errors and saying early election should be held instead. Djukanovic’s opponents then responded by changing the laws that give him a key role in appointing the PM.

Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists on Monday described passing of the law in parliament a “constitutional coup” and pledged to continue with the protests. The party said the crisis in Montenegro has been orchestrated from Serbia’s capital Belgrade.

Copyright © The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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Clashes at Montenegro protests amid political tension