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June 6, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 348
Cover Story

Reformist Wing Takes Victory

by Roksanda Nincic

Having learned during the evening hours of May 31 and early morning hours of June 1 that the election in Montenegro had been lost, Slobodan Milosevic sent his personal Falcon to Podgorica to bring Momir Bulatovic to Belgrade in order to see if anything could be done.  There was nothing to be done.  Contrary to the expectations of even the greatest optimists, winning an absolute majority in the parliament of the republic has strengthened Milo Djukanovic’s position to such a degree that it could be said that Slobodan Milosevic’s political competitor has become his actual alternative.  In the anticipation of FRY president’s next move,  a continuation of the state crisis in Yugoslavia can be expected.

How did it happen that the coalition “For a Better Life — Milo Djukanovic”, in full view of 120 Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) observers, representatives of the diplomatic corps,  many independent organizations of domestic observers, and  several hundred journalists, won 42 (of the total of 78) instead of the predicted 34-35 seats in the Parliament of Montenegro, and with this has managed to significantly change the balance of power in Montenegro, and, looked at globally, the balance of power in the federal state?

ESCAPED:  According to the general assessment of analysts in Podgorica, the person who is to be credited the most for Milo Djukanovic’s spectacular victory is Slobodan Milosevic who, with his putsch in the FRY Assembly and the appointment of Momir Bulatovic to the position of federal premier, has managed to alienate a segment of even his most loyal voters in northern Montenegro and thus single-handedly ruined the election chances of his protégé.  Namely, all public opinion polls which gave Djukanovic an insignificant lead over Bulatovic were conducted before Radoje Kontic’s dismissal as president of the federal government of FRY.  This move escalated the election campaign to an unprecedented degree and opened up a completely new issue which Djukanovic’s camp exploited with great skill.  The President of Montenegro and his associates spoke at every election meeting about “a government in exile”, while party activists pasted over every one of Bulatovic’s pre-election posters they came across with one word-- “Escaped”, which is considered the most effective slogan of the entire campaign.  Voters were served with images of Bulatovic’s villa in Belgrade’s exclusive Dedinje quarter ( including all his servants), which completely destroyed the image of modesty he attempted to create by coming to meetings in cheap automobiles (he left his fleet of armored Mercedes vehicles along the way), and by accusing Djukanovic of criminal dissipation.  The swift appointment of Bulatovic to the position of federal premier was not taken in Montenegro “as his leaving for a place in government, but rather as a politician’s escape from Montenegro because he is likely to lose the elections and is trying to secure himself some government position.  This was the worst possible favor to be bestowed upon Bulatovic as it created the worst possible impression among voters,” states political scientist Srdjan Darmanovic for VREME.  Additionally, Bulatovic’s departure for Belgrade did not fit into his campaign plan, while activists and voters who were promised a host of concrete jobs and positions became aware that the newfangled premier will not be able to take them all with him to Belgrade.  That is to say, they had been duped.
SOLDIERS: The events in Kosovo also helped Djukanovic because he constantly lobbied for dialogue and a peaceful solution, while Bulatovic’s people kept shouting that Kosovo must be defended “at all costs”.  When Montenegrins realized that this “cost” could easily include their lives, while at the same time seeing that brother Serbs are also not too eager to become soldiers, they chose to give their support to Djukanovic, who mentioned that in the event of mobilization he would demand that soldiers from Montenegro not be sent to Kosovo.  The skillful and experienced leader of the People’s Party, Novak Kilibarda, showed one mobilization call at an election meeting, “Here’s a mobilization call a young friend of mine received, and he asked me what he should do.  I told him that as long as Milosevic does not invite the president of Montenegro to sessions of the Head Security Council, he can ignore that call in good conscience, and those who support Bulatovic can stand at attention when Milosevic decides to collect his dues in Montenegrin lives...”

“Had we not fought at the front in Dubrovnik, things might be different,” states sociologist Veselin Pavicevic.  “At that time, ten thousand Montenegrins experienced one big lie.  As I was one of the participants in the occupying forces at Dubrovnik, I was witness to the fact that at least 50 percent of the people saw through an organized lie.”  That could not be erased from the voters’ memories.  At the same time, Montenegrins saw Milosevic and Ibrahim Rugova as they shook hands warmly and smiled at each other (which the local state television certainly showed infrequently).  They did see that Gonzales did not come to Belgrade, but that is why Holbrook did come. All the while, official Belgrade propaganda kept bombarding them with stories of Djukanovic’s treachery--evident because he was received at the highest levels in all important political centers in the world.
As far as Djukanovic’s success, which only last week seemed unthinkable,  in northern Montenegro (which favors radical Serbian politics), is concerned (the Coalition won in Bijelo Polje, Berane and Rozaj), it is considered that Milosevic was again instrumental in this because he rudely ignored the invitation by Patriarch Pavle to meet with the presidents of the republics and presidents of the parliaments of Serbia and Montenegro in order to discuss Kosovo.  It will be remembered that Djukanovic and the President of the Parliament of Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic showed up punctually at the Patriarchate in Belgrade, while Milosevic, and therefore Milan Milutinovic, did not even respond to the invitation.  This caused some leaders of Serbian parties in Montenegro to direct criticism at the president of FRY, which all together contributed to increasing the impression that what is at issue is a hoax.

CRACK: One of the key roles in the parliamentary elections in Montenegro was played by national minorities.  Nationalist parties completely cracked for the first time since the holding of elections in both the former and present Yugoslavias.  Two nationalist Muslim parties did not get a seat in parliament, while two Albanian parties each won a seat — from a total of five seats reserved for Albanians in the future Parliament of Montenegro.  “Refusing to vote for their nationalist parties, minorities gave enormous support to Djukanovic, so that after these elections it could be said that Montenegro has minorities which possess an incredible political awareness and an extremely refined sense for the political reality of the country in which they live.  To abandon one’s own nationalist parties and to vote for a civil option, an option which out of tactical reasons or perhaps out of principle constantly strives to show that it stands behind Yugoslavia and is not leaving it; and an option which stresses its allegiance to the Serbian  Orthodox Church indicates that Montenegro probably has the kinds of minorities it deserves,” states Srdjan Darmanovic.  It appears that Muslim parties (this minority represents a little more than 14 percent of the population of Montenegro) consciously channeled voter opinion before the elections. United Bosnians and Muslims withdrew from the elections only one day before voting, while SDA markedly reduced its campaign five to six days before the elections.  However, these assessments are balanced out by the fact that on June 2 leaders of both Muslim parties, Harun Hadzic and Rifta Veskovic, proclaimed that these elections were the most irregular to date, and that Muslims were being pressured.  Be that as it may, four or five Muslim mandates were transferred to the Coalition, while OSCE already announced that the elections were regular, assessing that they were “well organized” and that they represented “significant improvement in comparison to the previous elections held in Montenegro.”

Albanians also showed that they prefer Djukanovic’s Coalition (three mandates reserved for Albanians will go to members of this minority who are part of the Coalition), even though it should not be forgotten that the Albanian minority in Montenegro is not homogenous — around 80 percent are Catholics who are better integrated and quite evidently in favor of what the Montenegrin Government is offering.  Still, the Coalition “For a Better Life” also won in Ulcinj where Muslim Albanians are concentrated.

LOUDSPEAKERS:  Also another important reason for Djukanovic’s success, which was also unexpected, is the disintegration of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro.  Up to now, Slavko Perovic could safely count on the support of about 13 percent of the electorate.  In the May 31 parliamentary elections they got a little more than six percent of the votes, which causes some analysts to think that the liberals are a party on the wane.  In local elections  held simultaneously with the parliamentary ones, the Democratic Party of Socialists won single-handedly in Cetinje, a traditional liberal bastion.  According to observers, voters made a more rational assessment of the time and place in which they live and on the basis of election campaigns decided that Djukanovic will protect better the state traditions of Montenegro than Perovic.  The liberal leader spent eight years convincing the electorate that Montenegro is threatened, and now when Montenegro really is threatened, he claimed that the only ones threatened and in need of protection against Djukanovic and Bulatovic are he and his party, except that they directed most of their venom at Djukanovic.  They boycotted the session of the Parliament of the Republic twice, a session which was called to discuss Momir Bulatovic’s appointment as Federal Premier, with their overall behavior being cruelly punished by voters.  In the evening of June 2, around 2,000 angry voters appeared in front of Perovic’s house in Cetinje demanding his resignation and an explanation for the election loss.  They even brought loudspeakers so as to be able to hear him better.  Perovic curtly stated that he had nothing to tell them and that he had already submitted his resignation.

In contrast to Serbia,  the progress of democracy in Montenegro is also reflected in the fact that, political leaders there realize the importance of the relation between election results and their political authority, so that resignations are being submitted on all sides.  Beside Perovic, resignations were submitted by Ranko Djonovic of the Liberal Alliance, by Dusko Sekulic, the President of the Executive Committee of the Serbian Radical Party “Ph.D. Vojislav Seselj”, while Bozidar Bojovic, President of the Serbian People’s Party, also announced his resignation.

LOSERS: The only one who will not submit his resignation is Momir Bulatovic, President of the Socialist Peoples’ Party (SNP), who lost thirty thousand votes in comparison to the presidential elections.  He is also the new federal premier who proved that he does not have the support of the citizens of Montenegro for any political position, let alone for the constitutionally most powerful position of president of the federal state.  SNP Vice-President Predrag Bulatovic stated that he is “satisfied with the election results”.  Their result is 29 seats in the Parliament of the Republic (even though on elections eve, Bulatovic stated in an informal interview with journalists that a guaranteed 35 seats are being expected) and six communities (of 21) in local elections.  The SNP Vice-President, who was otherwise promised the position of President of Montenegro as soon as his party wins the elections, stated that there is no reason for Momir Bulatovic to submit his resignation and to leave the position of president of the party.  “If he does that, it should not be accepted.  I will lobby that his resignation not be accepted.  We have a good result with 36 percent of votes.”  He also stated that the victory of Djukanvoic’s coalition is the result of votes by people who earlier supported Momir Bulatovic’s party.  “Around 15,000 to 20,000 voters left us for them.  That’s the key to our weaker showing and their victory,” he stated, adding that he did not expect such a change in attitude.  Predrag Bulatovic explained the change of voters from one side to another as “police pressure and media subjectivity”, as well as bribing of certain people, even though he added that some of Momir’s former supporters changed sides without any pressure.  He also thinks that the elections “were not democratic”, but that his party does not contest the election results.

This last assessment, issued during election night, is especially interesting given the fact that Bulatovic’s people tried to convince voters and the whole world that the elections will certainly be rigged.  The acknowledgment of  the results, as well as the fact that Predrag Bulatovic, during the mentioned conversation with journalists around six in the afternoon during election day, stated quite decisively that, regardless of results, there will not be any demonstrations by Momir’s supporters (contrary to many announcements to that effect during the campaign), is mostly explained by the fact that Momir Bulatovic had a fairly unpleasant conversation with Xavier Ruperez, President of the OSCE Observers’ Mission, and several diplomats shortly before the elections.  Given that there was no unrest which were greatly feared in Montenegro, Slobodan Milosevic did not have even the smallest excuse to use force.  It seems that he still has not decided what to do after the heavy defeat which he suffered together with his wife and her party in Montenegro — because no one from SPS orJUL, nor any of their officials stated anything until the evening of Wednesday, June 3, regarding the election results in Montenegro.
Already on election night, Vojislav Seselj acknowledged Djukanovic’s victory, but it is quite clear that in the elections in Montenegro defeat was suffered by three parties which are in power in Serbia: SPS (in the guise of SNP), JUL (which got a little more than 300 votes, still less than what the yogi-flyers party got) and SRS (around 4,000 votes).  Victory was taken by the political option which is acceptable to Montenegrins, to minorities, to the young, educated people, to private businessmen and economists who support privatization, by the West and Russia, and to democratic forces in Serbia.  Slobodan Milosevic can try to ignore this fact, and it is most likely that he will do so.  But he cannot change it.

Djukanovic’s Ascent

According to general assessment, the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic is the only individual winner of the recent parliamentary elections in that republic.  He practically carried the entire Coalition “For a Better Life” on his own back, with its membership of the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists, Novak Kilibarada’s Peoples’ Party and Zarko Rakcevic’s Social Democratic Party.  Voters went to election rallies to listen to him, and only shouted his name even when leaders of other parties were present.  Until Djukanovic joined the campaign, DPS faired unimpressively in pre-election rallies, so that the president of the republic, according to political scientist Srdjan Darmanovic, grew daily into a charismatic figure leading into these elections.

In which way has the election result strengthened Djukanovic’s political position?

Darmanovic states, “Djukanovic’s legitimacy got an enormous boost in these elections.  The presidential elections last fall ended with a close victory. Moreover, the result was contested by the opponents, and Belgrade never acknowledged them.  This strengthening of legitimacy is constitutionally and politically significant.  Constitutionally — because the seat of power in Montenegro is in the government, so the position of president would have little importance for him without the backing of the parliament and the government.  Now he strengthened his position beyond all question.  Furthermore, the international community will view this strengthened legitimacy as a very significant fact, and from this also comes a strengthened position in relation to Milosevic.

As far as relations with Serbia are concerned, I would say the following: just as Montenegro cannot democratize Serbia, Djukanovic cannot depose Milosevic single-handedly.  He can destabilize his authority, he can appear in a possible development in Serbia as an ally of some Serbian opposition, but a strong alternative to Milosevic in Serbia is the missing link in the chain of events which would break his authority.  There is Plavsic and Dodik in Republika Srpska, Djukanovic in Montenegro, there is a crisis in Kosovo, there is the attitude of the international community — but a strong alternative in Serbia is lacking,” states Darmanovic.

Election Night

Election day, which was otherwise peaceful, was marked by two events.  The first is that the police set up roadblocks throughout Montenegro, stopping vehicles, checking passengers, while members of this service, armed with automatic weapons, addressed drivers with the following words — nothing unusual has happened, but we are doing this to prevent anything unusual from happening.

The second thing is that Momir Bulatovic, president of federal government, threatened police in front of his building that he would shoot at them if they do not leave within a half hour.  After that, in the security room of the building in which he lives together with Milo Djukanovic and Milica Pejanvoic-Djurisic, he single-handedly tore out phone cables and radio connections, throwing them through the window and into the rosebushes.

At an improvised press conference later that afternoon, he explained the motive behind this unusual act.  He said that the police was abusing his family by tailing his wife’s car when she went to buy bread in the morning with her kids.  They were tailed aggressively, not discretely, and that is abuse. He intends to protect his family with his life.  As far as the torn lines and thrown telephones are concerned, he stated that while he was president, he had a security system with which police could follow his movements throughout his apartment (“when I enter the bedroom, a small light goes on”).  When on January 14 he left that position, he asked for that apparatus to be removed, but they did not do that.
Otherwise, only at one point during election day did the situation appear tense.  Somewhere around 22 hours, in the courtyard of the SNP Election Headquarters a crowd of around a thousand supporters gathered, and the approach was blocked by cars.  They ate sandwiches and explained that they were waiting for results.  News leaked that more of them were on their way because supposedly OCSE ordered authorities to remove roadblocks.  At the same time, members of security of the Government Building, where the DPS Election Headquarters is housed, showed unusual nervousness.  They did not let anyone into the building, even though a few supporters gathered in front of the building.  However, as incoming results pointed to unimaginable victory by Djukanovic, SNP supporters dispersed crestfallen, while the atmosphere in the Government Building became more relaxed.  Djukanovic himself, during that evening, did not show any nervousness.  Already on election eve he dined with his wife and friends in the hotel “Montenegro”, so that one startled foreign journalist called his father back home to tell him that he is sitting in the hotel garden with colleagues, and that only several tables away the president is sitting without his socks on.

It is interesting that the victory, although far more convincing than the one in the presidential elections, was celebrated quietly.  For Montenegrin standards, gleeful shooting was moderate, and the party in the hotel “Montenegro” a lot less loud.  Some interpret that as Montenegro’s coming of age.

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