Skip to main content
June 17, 2000
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 443
Elections in Montenegro

Race Continues

by Velizar Brajovic & Milos Vasic

After the local elections in Podgorica and Herceg Novi there is finally calm on the Montenegrin political scene.  Adamant political opponents have decided to stop the ball and to think through carefully about their next move.  It is more than clear that the results of the local elections have forced them into rethinking their strategies, and that further, careful moves can be expected.  These elections have demonstrated that there is no room on the divisive Montenegrin political scene for a third party, that is to say that the Liberal Alliance has paid the price for deciding to step out of Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life and to run independently in the local elections in Podgorica and Herceg Novi, which originally forced the holding of the early elections.  It turned out that the overt optimism of the opponents in this election was part of their election strategy, while political analysts quite correctly pointed out that significant changes have not taken place in the Montenegrin electorate.  In expectation of the elections results, both Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life and Bulatovic's Coalition Yugoslavia were anxiously waiting behind the scenes.  This was especially true for the Liberal Alliance which is now being blamed for having managed to give over Herceg Novi to Mira Markovic by forcing the early local elections.

COST OF A COALITION:  The fact that the ruling coalition in Montenegro improved upon its earlier showing in Podgorica and managed to secure absolute local power in Montenegro's capital city could end up being a significant factor in defending political power in a general election, while at the same time it indicates the progress of the reform process taking place in Montenegro.  Djukanovic's Coalition managed to win 28 firm seats in local government, with the eventual possibility of getting an extra seat once voting is repeated in Sukurici.  Podgorica could end up being an indicator for the overall political atmosphere among the voters of Montenegro, for the simple fact that a third of the Montenegrin electorate lives in that city.  Djukanovic's Coalition managed to get 10 thousand more votes than Bulatovic's Coalition by winning over 4,500 supporters for the ruling Coalition.  The margin in favor of Djukanovic's Coalition in Podgorica is exactly the number of former supporters of Bulatovic's Coalition two years ago, that is to say when there was no Coalition Yugoslavia and when the Socialist People's Party (SNP) ran independently of the Serbian Radicals, of JUL, of the Serbian People's Party and several other smaller parties with their roots in Serbia.  According to certain commentators, this is a fact that suggests that a similar process is taking place in the north of Montenegro, and even in communities in which Bulatovic's people presently hold power, which is an important indicator for all those who are thinking about a referendum and early general election.  The SNP has already demanded that this take place this year.  The ruling Coalition has also been considering an early general election, but only under the condition that local elections show that there is a trend toward solidifying the power of Dukanovic's Coalition in the Parliament of Montenegro.

The Socialist People's Party went back on its insistence on calling an early general election already in the night between Sunday and Monday.  What remains to be seen is how the ruling Coalition will do after collected consideration of the results, above all the loss of Herceg Novi which happened because of organizational problems in local government in the past two years, and because of the lackadaisical behavior of the political parties in the ruling Coalition.

WRONG CALCULATION:  For now, the most important fact for the citizens of Montenegro is that the elections took place without any incidents and that the tensions, which skyrocketed leading into the elections, were dissipated on election day.  The general opinion is that this is owing to exceptionally well organized elections of the sort that Montenegro did not yet see.  Even the most suspicious observers realized that all possibilities of election rigging were cut off right at the ballot box.  Voters' ballots came with a registered coupon, fingerprinting with an invisible spray was conducted, the ballot boxes were made of see-through materials, while representatives of all political parties were present at the voting booths.  According to some observers, it appears that the SNP had agreed with their members to fold their ballots in a special way so as to have control over their ballots, and to have direct and immediate control over voting, given the fact that the ballot boxes were invisible.  It is not known whether this can be viewed as the braking of election laws, but it can be said that what is at issue is the braking of an agreement according to which the principle of the secret ballot has been breached.

Also of interest is what transpired at the election headquarters of the Socialist Democratic Party (SDP) in Herceg Novi, a party whose leadership decided to run independently of Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life in the local elections in Herceg Novi.  Already by eleven o'clock the election results were known and it was clear that the SDP did not get a single local mandate in Herceg Novi.  At that moment, the SDP made another post-election calculation which it evidently needed to make several weeks earlier.  Elementary election strategy: had all the anti-Milosevic and anti-Bulatovic parties entered into a unified coalition, the Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life, the Liberals and the SDP would have counted in 8,186 votes, while Bulatovic's Coalition Yugoslavia counted in their 8,067 votes.  Rifat Rastoder, Vice-President of SDP and a Vice-President in the Parliament of Montenegro, confirmed these figures for VREME.  Finally Bulatovic's Coalition Yugoslavia won 19 local seats, Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life won 14, while the Liberals got two local seats.

THE FATE OF BEING SMALL:  The overall impression of the VREME reporters is that what is at issue is further bipolarization of the Montenegrin electorate and a transformation of the political scene into a two party system, with small political parties like the Liberals and the SDP no longer standing a chance.  Sine 1991 they lost over one half of their supporters and have simply fallen apart because of the dissipation of votes in Herceg Novi.  In Podgorica, both Djukanovic's and Bulatovic's coalitions were getting ready to celebrate, while the Liberals harbored secret hopes of winning 15 percent of votes in that city, after which they would have clout in making a political deal.  Already by 10 p.m., processions were heading toward the Montenegrin Government building where Djukanovic's election headquarters were located.  On the other shore of the Moraca River, Bulatovic's supporters were heading in a procession toward the Coalition Yugoslavia election headquarters, located next to Vezirov Most.  As the clock ticked and as the results kept arriving, it was clear that Djukanovic was sweeping Podgorica, with his supporters beginning an early celebration, with flags already unfolding, car sirens going off and a video beam up and running in front of the Montenegrin Government building.  At that point Bulatovic's supporters already began scattering, with an evident danger of conflicts between Bulatovic's and Djukanovic's supporters.  However, the police acted quickly to separate the two processions of supporters and everything passed in perfect peace and calm.  However, when President Milo Djukanovic addressed his supporters, they broke out in a flood of enthusiasm and exuberance.  Their happiness was great despite the poor showing in Herceg Novi.  Djukanovic stated that the victory in Podgorica clearly indicates that Milosevic supporters are dying out, while the future Mayor of Podgorica Miomir Mogus promised that "starting Monday the election campaign for the general elections two years hence will begin," and that in these elections the margin of victory should at least double.

CITY AND VILLAGE:  It is significant for understanding the unfolding political process in Montenegro that the number of supporters for Djukanovic's Coalition is increasing even in rural areas.  This time Djukanovic won even in Zeta, an area that traditionally supported Milosevic and Bulatovic.  Admittedly, he only won by a margin of 62 votes, but this was reason enough for Momir Bulatovic's party to get very worried.  The final results will indicate voting patterns in other areas in which Bulatovic had significant support.  It is interesting that Coalition Zajedno, which is made up of Albanian political parties, did not managed to win a single local seat, which once again showed that the Albanians in Podgorica are more willing to vote for civil parties, than they are willing to vote for nationalist parties.  

And while victors are celebrating in Podgorica, Predrag Bulatovic, the Podgorica candidate for Coalition Yugoslavia announced that he will submit his resignation to the position of Vice-President of the Socialist People's Party.  It is already clear to everyone that this resignation will not be acknowledged, just like Svetozar Marovic's offer to resign from his party post in Djukanvovic's DPS because of the loss in Herceg Novi, where he headed the DPS election campaign quarters, will equally be ignored.  

There is finally peace on the Montenegrin political scene and that brought relief to everyone.  There is a distinct impression that a democratic climate in which citizens can express themselves on vital issues, including the issue of the status of their Republic is being nurtured in Montengro.  However, several questions remain open: will the federal elections be held after everything that took place in Montenegro, will there be early general elections on the level of the republics, and will a referendum be held in Montenegro.  It is quite clear that a new strategy is being forged by both sides.

© Copyright VREME NDA (1991-2001), all rights reserved.