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August 2, 1997
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 304
Stojan Cerovic's Diary

Ruler Without a State

Since on inauguration day in Belgrade the new proprietor of Tito’s limousine got a reception of old shoes hurled at his windshield, what sort of welcome were Lilic, Tomic and others hoping for in Podgorica? Were they hoping for a reception with members of the Yugoslav Youth Organization waving flags, and offering flowers?

On the other side, Vuk Draskovic, who is a greater monarchist than Prince Aleksander himself, visited the old king’s residence and was hospitably greeted by its new tenant, who does not have any blue blood in his veins. Instead, the visitor had to satisfy himself, at least for now, with the newly dyed blond hair of the youngest member of the family.

These two surprising visits show that here no bet is a sure thing, and that nothing can be completely relied on. Allies become adversaries overnight, and the opposite, without any apparent essential logic or reason, just as in a casino numbers are randomly drawn to determine losers and winners. However, this roulette is rigged. Those who know the personality of the head croupier, and follow his movements beneath the table, will not always be surprised, and might even learn how to win on occasion. In any case, there is more rhyme and reason in political behavior than meets the eye.

In Montenegro events are unfolding according to a long established principle which goes thus: the longer Milosevic is in power, the smaller the territory over which he has power. Or: greatness, strength and reputation of our country are inversely proportional to the length of his mandate. Montenegro had too much understanding, good will and patience to wait for Serbia to catch up; it agreed to share our fate, but does not know how to have a good time doing it, and to handle its shame indefinitely with a raised chin. It could even be said that it has tried for too long to help and to redirect the incomparably greater Serbia, which is a game that is now proving too dangerous.

Since the disintegration of the old and the creation of the new, lessened Yugoslavia, the relations of the two republics were organized according to the principle of a party coalition, and were largely based on personal relations between Milosevic and Bulatovic. There was too much time for the state to be institutionally organized at least enough to be able to survive personal and party conflicts, but in such an unlikely scenario Milosevic would not be able to make his monarch’s declaration: "I am the state". Just as he has defined Serbia, so he has defined its relation with Montenegro as a part of his personality, or even as a part of his physical being, so that he could declare his every enemy an enemy of the state.

After Momir Bulatovic’s defeat Milosevic realized that the good old times of easy rule are gone, while the attempts of the SPS delegation to interfere and change the balance of power in Montenegro merely revealed cracks in the relationship between the two parties. At the same time Djukanovic’s circle with unusual care and reservation is leaving open the possibility for the personal, and even party relationships to not be mixed up with those between states. Already from such an attitude it is possible to tell that they adopted a more rational, modern and responsible approach, to which they were probably most driven by misfortune. But that misfortune, which just became the new tenant of the White Castle, never considers rational offers before finding out whether he can use physical force.

All cracks that appeared in the recent years here have only widened, and not a single one has been patched. But it was never as apparent as now that the responsibility for that lies only in one place. The behavior of the two republics can simply not be compared. With the greatest possible opposition, the Montenegrins agreed to have Milosevic as the head of the federation, only to save the state from a crisis and in the hope that this pest could be contained with the constitution. On the other hand, the SPS delegation, in Montenegro itself, is trying to resuscitate and get Bulatovic back on his feet after a knockout. After all that they are complaining that they were not well received and are accusing Montenegrins of being against Yugoslavia.

And that Yugoslavia, which is the new resident of the White Castle, is now forging new plans. To use physical force would be difficult; to make arrests, equally so, while if Montenegrins are left to elect Djukanovic as their President next October, things will only get tougher. What remains are economic blockades and the inciting of local rebellions throughout Montenegro, in the hope that something very bad might come out of that. It would not be too late, even now, for the changes in Montenegro to be acknowledged; however, Milosevic simply loves and knows how to foster his enemies to the very end, and with the gravest possible repercussions.

Even this time it could easily lead to the disintegration of a shared state. If it were to happen without any shots fired, that would not be so bad. In Serbia, just as in Montenegro, many would be easily consoled, as in such a way a leader would be left without a state, since the opposite was impossible to achieve. After that, we would probably fix and glue whatever will be left and in dire need of gluing.

However, in Serbia itself things are suddenly looking up for Milosevic. Not even having taken up his new, strictly official post, and when it was expected that the entire opposition and all his opponents would stop him in his tracks, Vuk Draskovic suddenly came knocking at Milosevic’s door and, instead of congratulating and wishing him a peaceful rest from power, he invited him once more to rule Serbia. He begged him to promise and guarantee something nice, which is another one of those things which Milosevic always knew how to do with great ease and considerable pleasure.

Circumstances were well arranged for a serious and decisive boycott of the elections, even though I must acknowledge the remark that the opposition leaders have not yet demonstrated that they are not up to such tasks, that they are incapable of negotiating and sticking to agreements, and that they cannot resist the crumbs of power and privileges which the regime might throw their way. It was possible to prove beyond a doubt that Serbia can not be stabilized, that it seriously lags behind in democratic reforms, and that the whole system of parties, media, elections and the parliament is going askew because it missed the first crucial step in its evolution.

It could have been said that democratic insufficiencies were the result of the disintegration of the old country through war and sanctions (even though this causal relation was previously reversed). People could have understood it if the opposition had stated that because of extraordinary circumstances they had to accept unfair election conditions; but they no longer will, especially after the experience we all benefitted from in the last local elections. The endless haggling over the media, over the number of voting districts and over election controls must once and for all come to an end in this country.

Political and every other sort of depravity in this land arises from the fact that elections here never end with congratulations to the victor from the defeated party. Broad consensus has never been reached over basic rules and conditions here; we are all always aware of their basic unfairness, and for that reason there is an absence of loyalty among citizens for their state, while conflicts continue to fester and to be transferred from the street into parliament, and back. That is why, especially this year, the opposition had the great responsibility in Serbia of forcing the regime, through unified pressure, to come back to square one and forever liberate the public from evil stories of thievery, treachery and manipulation, at least where elections are concerned.

Draskovic obviously had some sort of vested interest for himself personally and for his party also, when he decided to take the risky step of offering Milosevic minimal conditions and practically accepting participation in the elections. His supporters will say what they think about that, while the idea of a boycott is becoming more and more difficult to realize. Those with most to lose will be the ones least eager to take that step — and they are the Democratic Party and Zoran Djindjic, who has no inclination for upholding strong, governing principles or for accepting long-range plans. They would probably lose a lot by participating under the present conditions, while Djindjic himself would lose a vital opportunity to prove himself as a weighty politician of a higher caliber.

Like many times up to know, the greatest surprise would be generated if what is most reasonable were to happen: that is, if the entire opposition were to boycott the elections. It seems that personal rivalries between Draskovic and Djindjic will be the main reasons behind their decisions to participate or to boycott. The former will participate if he figures that the latter will lose out by boycotting, while the latter will boycott if he thinks that the former could brake his neck by participating. In any case, without an efficient boycott, Serbia will emerge from the elections in disorder and weakened by the strengthened socialist government, and let no one ask then where Montenegro disappeared.

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