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June 13, 1998
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 349
Federal government in chaos

General non-recognition

by Roksanda Nincic

"We do not recognize" and "it doesn't exist" are the two most frequent replies you will get in Podgorica for any question regarding the federal government. The Montenegrin authorities do not recognize the federal parliament, while the Belgrade regime maintains that the outcome of the Montenegrin elections shouldn't affect the composition of federal institutions in any way. The general non-recognition has created additional chaos in the remarkably inefficient federal government. Milo Djukanovic's Montenegro wants a federal prime minister from its own ranks. Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, president of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) said the victorious coalition "For a better life" should be entitled to nominate the federal premier. Therefore, the Yugoslav president should consult his aides on forming a new government and elect a DPS candidate for the post. The resignation of Momir Bulatovic, known in Podgorica as "a private president of Milosevic's private government", is not demanded because demanding his resignation would mean recognizing him and his government. As it doesn't recognize him, DPS won't take part in consultations on the reconstruction of Bulatovic's government. Bulatovic said his new-look government would "create the conditions for cooperation with the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO) and the Serbian Radical Party (SRS)". Even if Slobodan Milosevic respected the will of Montenegro's citizens and elected a federal premier from DPS ranks, it is quite hard to imagine that a government made of Djukanovic's reformists, SPS, JUL, and SRS could function for the nation's welfare.

The Montenegrin Assembly will elect all 20 candidates for the federal chamber of the republics from the ranks of the winning coalition. Both Serbia and Montenegro are entitled to 20 deputies in this chamber, meaning that 21 make a majority when decisions are made. That will require amendments to the law on electing federal deputies. The chamber is formed in proportion to the representation of the parties in the republican parliaments, meaning that Momir Bulatovic's Socialist National Party (SNP) is entitled to its deputies in the federal parliament. Milosevic's followers already disputed the announced amendments, while Predrag Bulatovic, the SNP vice-president, said such a course of action would trigger a fresh crisis. Serbian vice-premier Vojislav Seseslj and SPS spokesman, Ivica Dacic, who shouldn't make the Montenegrin parliament's decisions their business, said that the Montenegrins must elect their deputies under the present law and a proportional system.

However, the winners will do what they will and their decision will be perfectly legitimate, for it's entirely up to a particular republic as to who will represent it in the federal parliament. As far as the political legitimacy of the decision is concerned, Miodrag Vukovic, the Montenegrin vice-premier, offered the following explanation: "We will elect our deputies the same way Serbia elects its own". The Serbian parliament banned the proportional system overnight in 1993, enabling the socialists and the radicals to occupy all 20 seats in the federal chamber of the republics.

In case the Montenegrin parliament does the same, the mandate of its deputies in the federal parliament might not be verified. Momcilo Bojovic of the SNP said the new delegation wouldn't require the verification, but that shouldn't be taken for granted. Slobodan Milosevic would much prefer a disjointed  Montenegrin delegation to an insubordinate one, because it would be very easy for him to acquire the needed majority in that case.

Jozef Kasa, the president of the Vojvodina Hungarians Alliance, a party with one deputy in the Serbian delegation, already said his party would stand united with Milo Djukanovic. Bearing in mind that that both chambers in the federal parliament have to pass all decisions, Djukanovic could veto anything he doesn't like.
Montenegro is unhappy with the other federal chamber, too. "The chamber of citizens is represented of non-existent parties, those which didn't run in the federal elections under their present names and those who failed to win a single seat after the republican elections," said Miodrag Vukovic. However, it is very likely that things will remain as they are. Deputies for the chamber of citizens are elected at the most immediate elections. Although Montenegro is demanding fresh elections, it is unlikely they will be organized because Serbia would have to approve, too. Ivica Dacic said recently SPS saw no reason for calling special elections, and added that the federal parliament functioned perfectly. Commenting on Dacic's statement that police and the mafia won the Montenegrin elections, Montenegrin vice-premier Milutin Lalic said he deserved to have his ears pulled.

Even if elections were called, Djukanovic could only win 30 out of 138 seats in the chamber of citizens. That is more than he has now, but insufficient to change the balance of power unless he received support from a strong political movement in Serbia. Technically, it could lead to dissolving the federal parliament early next year when the adoption of the federal budget is on the agenda. If Djukanovic puts a veto on the budget in the chamber of the republics, the federal parliament should be dissolved under the law. Fresh federal elections would then be organized, but some observers say that the federal crisis simply has to be resolved by the end of this year. The only thing Djukanovic can't do is oust Milosevic, because the federal president can be sacked for unconstitutional behaviour only if there is a majority in both federal chambers. However, Montenegrin deputies can ask for a debate on the nature of his administration outside Montenegro after being sworn in by the federal parliament.

What does Bulatovic and his supporters want? They don't want a new federal government, much less a new federal premier. Bulatovic said the Montenegrin elections have changed neither the federal government's position nor his own. "The balance of power and the statements of SPS, SPO and SRS leaders show that there is complete confidence in my government," said Bulatovic. Ivica Dacic went on to say that there was no dispute as to what the composition of the federal government would be.

Milosevic's Montenegrin allies maintain that not having any deputies in the federal parliament is completely unacceptable. But they do have an answer in case that happens. "We are a Yugoslav party and we see no reason to stay in the Montenegrin parliament if someone throws us out of the the federal chamber," Predrag Bulatovic told the daily Danas. Of course, the legitimacy of the Montenegrin parliament would be put in question if the SNP walked out.

Meanwhile, Bulatovic and his followers are doing the best they can to survive on the political scene. The SNP objected to the election results in Herceg Novi and Zabljak two days before the appeal deadline. This can't affect the election outcome in any way, but the appeal procedure delayed the Montenegrin parliament session originally scheduled for June 10. DPS officials say Bulatovic's objective is to squeeze the new laws on state and security and media into the federal parliament while he still can, in view of the fact that they are completely unacceptable for Djukanovic and his followers. The laws are aimed at stripping Montenegro of its integrity, but nothing will change essentially even if they are adopted at a federal parliament session due on June 25. The federal crisis will continue indefinitely.

Montenegro will once again refuse to recognize a law brought by a government it doesn't recognize in a parliament it doesn't recognize, while the Belgrade authorities will go on with their rhetoric on Montenegro's unconstitutional behaviour. Montenegro will go one way and Milosevic with his private Montenegrins the other. Momir Bulatovic abolished all regulations adopted by his predecessor, Radoje Kontic, concerning the organization of federal customs. He did so only to adopt a set of identical decisions himself. The "catch" is that it enabled him to make a "temporary takeover" of the staff, meaning that all DPS cadres have been sacked.

The political mayhem is apparent in every segment of the federal state's inefficiency. The Montenegrin authorities recognize only president Slobodan Milosevic as a legitimate federal institution. They recognize only their biggest adversary, the man they have accused of unconstitutional rule and a possible disintegration of the federal state. Milosevic has finally recognized Djukanovic as the legitimate Montenegrin president by inviting him to attend the National Security Council's session, but in the federal parliament he recognizes only the Montenegrins heavily defeated in the republican elections. Montenegrin authorities said they would stop paying revenue from taxes and customs to the federal budget until the state pays a pension debt estimated at 400 million dinars. The federal ministry of finance says it's the Montenegrins and not the federal state that's indebted. All this is a déjà vu of what happened eight years ago, so there can be no compromise between the sides to the conflict to build a mutually acceptable federal state. As long as Milosevic is in power, there will never be a normal state in these parts.

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