During the period of 30 days of election campaign for local elections (held on May 23, 2010), Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) conducted a pioneer research in Montenegro – discourse analysis of political communication. We analyzed campaign speeches and official statements of two dominant party coalitions, and one party that would eventually decide which coalition will have majority in the local parlament of Podgorica, the capital of Montenegro. The sources for our data were three daily newspapers – Vijesti, Dan and Pobjeda – which published campaign speeches, as well as party statements to the Montenegrin public.
We applied two approaches: functional and critical discourse analysis. The functional theory of political campaign discourse holds that political utterances (acclaims, attacks, defences) can occur on two topics: policy and characters. We divided policy statements into those which address past deeds, future plans (means to an end), and general goals (ends). Character utterances were divided into those which discuss the personal qualities of candidates (i.e. courage, honesty, compassion), the candidates’ leadership ability (experience), and the party/candidates’ ideals (values or principles). We also applied critical discourse analysis to identify ideologies and values that pervade political speeches and statements. By applying this method we tried to identify the lowest common denominator in the political discourse of all parties, the one which reproduces status quo through their speeches and statements.
Our analysis showed that attacks were the most frequent function, so the campaign was predominantly negative. Parties were responding to attacks with attacks, so defence was least common function. Character issues were more common than policy in party statements. Surprisingly, the ruling party attacked more, and acclaimed less, than the opposition coalition. The ruling coalition used past deeds more for acclaims, and less for attacks, than the opposition. In general, character issues were the dominant topic, while policy issues were mentioned sporadically. None of the parties addressed the issue of how to deal with problems. As the lowest common denominator of political discourse in Montenegro we identified the traditional idea (and image) of “the man of the house” (domaćin). In this sense, both ruling coalition and opposition proved to be very conservative, expressing patriarchal values in their speeches and statements.
This analysis brought a new perspective on the nature of political campaign communication in Montenegro. We find this project of crucial importance in creating a more democratic climate in Montenegro, since this research showed the true face of Montenegrin political parties: it showed the lack of seriousness and professionalism when it comes to dealing with real life issues.