PODGORICA (Reuters) - Montenegro's parliament passed a no-confidence motion on the cabinet of Prime Minister Dritan Abazovic on Saturday, proposed by 36 deputies to protest the signing of a long-disputed deal regulating ties with the powerful Serbian Orthodox Church.
It was the year's second no-confidence motion, following February's collapse of the cabinet of prime minister Zdravko Krivokapic, who was backed by the Serbian Orthodox Church.
"I am very proud of everything we have done in 100 days," Abazovic said after the vote. "We will be remembered as the government that lasted the shortest but which made the most difficult decisions."
President Milo Djukanovic will now have to nominate a new prime minister-designate to form a new government of the NATO member nation that aspires to join the European Union. There is also the chance of a snap election.
Politics in the Adriatic country of just 625,000 people has long been marked by divisions between those who identify as Montenegrins and pro-Russia Serbs who opposed Montenegro's independence from a former state union with Serbia.
After a day-long debate, the no-confidence motion, jointly proposed by the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) of President Milo Djukanovic and some parties of the ruling coalition, received backing of 50 of parliament's 81 deputies.
Abazovic signed the church deal this month despite criticism from rights groups and pro-Western political parties which said it gave the church too much power compared to other religious communities.
He insisted the pact would resolve a long-standing domestic problem and help heal rifts between pro-European Union parties and those backing stronger ties with Serbia and Russia.
Criminal groups sponsoring some political parties were behind the no-confidence motion in order to prevent his government's anti-graft campaign, Abazovic said on Friday.
"This country will be ruled either by criminals or by citizens," he said after the vote. "And I'm sorry ... that organised crime in Montenegro still uses its tentacles to regulate political relations."
(Reporting by Stevo Vasiljevic; Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Clarence Fernandez)