BELGRADE - Montenegro's parliament on Friday endorsed a new coalition government with a wafer-thin majority that needs to steer the country through the coronavirus crisis and an economic downturn after ending three decades of socialist rule. The coalition, which has the support of only 41 deputies in the 81-seat parliament, was put together with conservative pro-Serb, centre-right and green parties after the Aug. 30 election. Prime Minister Zdravko Krivokapic has pledged his cabinet will tackle the downturn, fight the coronavirus, and root-out corruption and organised crime, a key condition for Montenegro's long-term goal of joining the European Union. Milos Konatar, a deputy from the ruling coalition said that the vote on the new government "represents the first step of democracy." "We are setting the standard that the change of government will become normal," he said during the debate. The new government will also seek to dismantle a state apparatus built by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) led by long-serving President Milo Djukanovic. Krivokapic, his allies, and democracy and human rights watchdogs have long accused Djukanovic and the DPS of running Montenegro, a small Adriatic republic of 620,000 people, as their own fiefdom with links to organised crime. The DPS and Djukanovic, who faces re-election as president in 2023, have denied that. The new government enjoys the support of the conservative Serbian Orthodox Church, the biggest in the country, and wants closer ties with Serbia, a former partner in the now-defunct Yugoslav federation. This year and last, the Serbian Orthodox Church held daily protests against a law adopted last December that allows the state to seize religious assets whose historical ownership cannot be proven. Krivokapic pledged to amend the law. REUTERS
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