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March 2, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 480
Montenegro - Pre-election Shuffle

Referendum Fever

by Velizar Brajovic

Montenegro is gripped by pre-election fever which, regardless of how election lists turn out, will once again be divided into two camps.  One camp, the so-called Montenegrin Block, includes supporters of the idea of an independent Montenegro, while the other, so-called Yugoslav Block, often called the pro-Serbian Block, includes supporters of the idea of a joint state between Serbia and Montenegro with a view to improving the federation.  There is simply no room for a third block on the scene.  At this moment the only remaining question is whether opposing blocks will enter the election race with coalitional agreements, or whether the issue of coalitions will be taken up after all the votes are counted.

So far the main parties have not made any concrete moves toward forging coalitions, probably because there is still a good deal of time remaining for that.  And of course, the element that everyone is eagerly awaiting, the results of the latest polls which would indicate the weight of different political parties, which would naturally determine how the final results are to be divided up among coalition partners.  It is an unarguable fact that the Montenegrin election law forces political parties belonging to the two political blocks to form coalitions, not just because no single party can count to win on its own, but also because the application of Dont’s formula could ultimately bring wining mandates to a particular political party.  This was already seen during last year’s local elections when the Coalition for Yugoslavia – Momir Bulatovic won the local elections in Herceg Novi because the DPS ran in that election in coalition with the People’s Party, while the Social Democrats and the Liberals mounted separate local campaigns.  The fact that DPS, NS, SDP and LS had a total number of votes that carried a victory did not mean anything because the application of Dont’s formula resulted in the accounting of SDP and Liberal votes in support of Bulatovic’s Coalition.

The April elections are more important than any previous ones for the opposing blocks, for they will largely determine the results of the announced referendum.  A victory by the supporters for independence opens the path to the referendum, while the pro-Yugoslav block is hoping that the balance of power in the new parliament will be such that they will manage to sabotage the referendum.  By calling an election, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic expressed conviction that “the elections will create stable political conditions for a decision to be made on legal and state status,” while his political opponents, above all from the ranks of the Socialists People’s Party (SNP) claim that the elections will be “the end of Milo Djukanovic’s regime and an opening of the process of complete harmonization between Montenegro and Serbia.”  Both sides tied their political future to a positive result in the upcoming elections, which will produce some unlikely alliances, in all probability.

For precisely these reasons a reshuffling of political forces is taking place on the Montenegrin political scene, having resulted in the upcoming early election.  Because of its support for staying in Yugoslavia with Serbia, the People’s Party – Dragan Sosic has abandoned Djukanovic’s Government, so that from its last year’s showing at the polls, with 1.9 percent of electoral support, that party’s support has risen to 7 percent.  According to Dragan Sosic, his party is attracting disappointed supporters of the Socialist People’s Party, the Serbian National Party and several other non-parliamentary political parties which have the word Serbian in their names.  But in Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), several officials have gone back from Bulatovic’s Socialist Peoples’ Party (SNS) to their old parties (SNS was founded four years ago when divisions arose in People’s Party), with entire community councils announcing such moves, as for instance with the Community Council of Pljevlje.  Novica Stanic is supporting unification on equal basis, as well as the possibility of unification with Serbia on the level of communities, regardless of the decision adopted by SNS leadership which did not accept this approach at a meeting of the Chief Party Council.

Vice President of the People’s Party, Savo Djurdjevac told VREME that his party is not considering even the remotest possibility of accepting integration with Serbia on the basis of principles proposed by the SNS, with the President of the Executive Council of that party, Predrag Drecun being even more emphatic in stating that the SNS membership is welcome to join the People’s party en masse.  The reason for this attitude on the part of the People’s Party is that inner conflicts plague the SNS, above all because of the division of power between the SNP when they entered into coalition with that party during the last elections, because it is said that “all the power was taken by people close to the party leadership.”

SNP is decisively denying claims that disappointed members of that party are crossing over to the People’s Party.  After the early party congress in which the former leader Momir Bulatovic was freed from all his previously held party positions, the new leader of the SNP, Predrag Bulatovic announced certain victory in the upcoming elections, urging those voters who are against a union with Yugoslavia not to give a single vote to Milo Djukanovic.  Momir Bulatovic seems to think quite differently, having told Djukanovic that he should get champagne ready for election day, for no one in his right mind organizes a party congress leading into an election, the way Predrag Bulatovic has done.  It is not certain how strong the SNP is at the present moment.  Momir Bulatovic’s supporters have already registered the People’s Socialist Party (NSS) which is scheduled to have a founding meeting on the day that VREME goes to press this week.  For now, it is known that the list of founders of this party does not include the name of Momir Bulatovic, although an authorized representative of the NSS, Milorad Rasovic, told VREME that this party would be happy to see Momir Bulatovic at its helm.  Rasovic explained that the NSS was created out of pressure and discontent on the part of disappointed members of the SNP who think that moves made by Predrag Bulatovic have lead to a departure from the paths along which Momir Bulatovic successfully and honorably led that party.  We do not want to become the competition of a unified Yugoslav Block, nor of SNP.  All we want is to avoid a situation in which dissatisfied members of the SNP will remain passive, or even join another party.

Predrag Bulatovic refused to comment for VREME the founding of a new party, but already at the SNP Congress in Bijelo, he stated that the founding of a new political party can only weaken the defense front of Yugoslavia in Montenegro.  It is a fact that the latest changes have caused far greater repercussions within his party than the ones he expected, and that there is an ever growing number of republican and community party officials who are publicly abandoning him.

It is hard to say whether a coalition will be forged between parties of the Yugoslav Block which could possibly include the SNP, NS, SNS and several other political parties, and the just founded NSS.  Predrag Bulatovic’s Socialist People’s Party is stating that they are not interested in a coalition, but that they will consider such a possibility in the event that the opposing side forms a coalition of its own.

On the other side, the Democratic Party of Socialists is still not mentioning any coalitional alliance, even though up to now, the leader of the Liberals, Miodrag Zivkovic and the leader of the SDP, Zarko Rakcevic issued a call on more than one occasion for the founding of a unified Montenegrin Block.  President Milo Djukanovic responded to this by stating that the existence of a unified Montenegrin Block would presume the existence of a unified anti-Montenegrin Block.  However, it is clear that tactics are at issue here and it is quite certain that coalitions will be founded, leading into the election.  Up to now, it is known that there are pressures within DPS itself against the latest efforts for Montenegrin independence.  Even DPS MP, like Rajko Djakovic, are not keeping quiet about this.  Djakovic stated in the Montenegrin parliament that he would sooner enter slavery together with Serbia, than with an independent Montenegro.  DPS MP, Smajo Sabotic expressed similar convictions.  Over 95 percent of the DPS membership is supporting the latest policies put forth by this party, that party’s leadership asserts, with occasional statements being made to the effect that DPS could win the election all on its own.  This position within DPS is answered by comments that a refusal to join in a coalition would mean that DPS itself does not entirely stand behind the idea of an independent Montenegro.  The Liberals and the People’s Socialist Party, as potential coalitional partners of the DPS in the Montenegrin Block, are still waiting for negotiations, and it is still a question whether they will be joined by the recently formed People’s Unity Party – Novak Kilibarda and by Albanian political parties.

Who will run together with whom is a question without a definite answer.  Supporters of the Montenegrin Block are far calmer in awaiting the response to this question, above all because the latest poll (conducted by Damar of Podgorica) indicate that in January DPS had 30.7 percent support, SNP 24.6 percent, the Liberals, 9.1 percent, the People’s Party 7 percent, and the Social Democratic Party, a little below 5 percent.  According to this poll, DPS could not win over a possible coalition between SNP, NS and the SNS, while a coalition between DPS-LS-SDP could yield a two-thirds majority on the basis of Dont’s formula.  As political analysts point out, there is a reserve of Albanian votes for parties which have secured seats in parliament, so that this block is not showing any nervousness or fear in entering the elections.

However, it is hardly known what could happen until the elections and how much voter opinion will be swayed by increasingly frequent advice coming from representatives of the international community that Montenegro should give up idle notions of independence.

In any case, this will be a campaign without mercy.  The overall impression is that the electorate has already made its decision and that it is more or less clear to everyone that the future status of Montenegro will also be voted on in the April elections.

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