Podolica, Montenegro (AP)-Thousands of people gathered in Montenegro on Monday, accusing the new government of this young country of being pro-Serbian because the country plans to amend a religious property law, which was strongly opposed by the Serbian Orthodox Church Opposed.
Protesters holding Montenegrin flags, shouting “treason”, gathered outside the parliament building in the capital Podgorica, where lawmakers plan to discuss the proposed changes.
The demonstration was the first major protest by a small Balkan country against the coalition government, which came to power after the opposition won an overwhelming majority of the long-ruling pro-Western party in the August parliamentary elections.
Religious property law is an issue in elections. The Serbian Orthodox Church claimed that the law was designed to deprive the church of its property, which the previous government denied. The church led the protests for months and helped strengthen the opposition before the election.
After the 2006 referendum, Montenegro announced its separation from the alliance with Serbia. Residents of the country are still divided on their relations with Belgrade. About 30% of people in Montenegro claim to be Serbs, and the Serbian Orthodox Church has the most followers among organized religions.
The previous government led by the Socialist Democratic Party freed Montenegro from the influence of Serbia and Russia. The Adriatic countries joined NATO in 201
Participants in the demonstration on Monday criticized the new government’s plan to revoke the religious law on property. They accused the government of preparing for the “occupation” of Montenegro.
It is not clear when the Parliament will vote on the amendment of the law.
Despite calls for measures to curb the spread of the coronavirus, demonstrators still gathered together, many of whom did not have masks. Montenegro reported that in a country of 620,000 people, 666 people died from the virus.