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April 27, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 488
Elections in Montenegro

Milo Djukanovic's Victorious Defeat

by Nenad Lj. Stefanovic

To anyone who ever had a chance to talk to Miodrag Vukovic, president of the Democratic Party of Socialist’s (DPS) executive council (and the author of this text did so on a number of occasions), it was clear that the first operator of the Montenegro’s Victory – Milo Djukanovic coalition a few hours after the parliamentary elections were concluded, had started to lose his customary self-confidence, especially while, with a rather bitter expression, he informed the reporters that on these elections the option which is in favor of an independent Montenegro had achieved “a never sweeter victory”. Neither Vukovic, nor all the others who addressed the reporters in name of the winning coalition some time later nor in the next few days could hide the fact that “enthusiasm” over the election results in the winning camp is somehow forced and somewhat resembles singing on “playback”. It is a song, but not really from the heart.

Namely, the unofficial pre-election goal was not only to achieve a victory (which no one doubted) but to win close to a two-third majority in parliament, which would only accelerate and formalize Montenegro’s road to independence, international recognition and that famous seat in the United Nations in the next few months. In the end it turned out that the victory was, after all, too close and that the political divisions in Montenegro demand a lot more caution and delicacy and a bit less haste than many believed prior to these elections. The President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic, who had personally promised a few times during the pre-election campaign on Montenegrin city squares that his coalition would have at least 39 seats in parliament, which means a possibility to independently form a new government (the parliament has 77 seats), stopped at number 35, while his main adversary, the Coalition for Yugoslavia won only two seats less. The results of the recent parliamentary elections in Montenegro could be viewed as follows – Djukanovic did receive the largest number of votes and won, but not to the extent to be able to state that he had sufficiently convinced the citizens of Montenegro (and the international community) that this is the right moment to move towards a referendum and independence.  

On the other hand, reasons for the somewhat sour victorious smiles should also be sought in what the Montenegrin Prime Minister Filip Vujanovic had stated at the final and extremely well attended pre-election rally of the Montenegro’s Victory coalition last Wednesday evening in downtown Podgorica. Predicting a landslide victory because, as he said, this time “youth and experience, north and south would vote, as well as members of all the nations”, Vujovic added: “We will win because we don’t want anyone to blackmail us, not even the liberals who want to lead state policies with too much passion.” When the delegate’s seats are added up, it turns out that without the liberals and their six seats, an “independent government” cannot be formed. In the first post-election night, the winners no longer referred to their potential coalition partner’s passion but rather stressed how the liberals and the delegates from the ranks of the Albanian parties are the necessary “democratic reserve” of the Montenegrin bloc.

BAD OMENS: The two possibly worst omens prior to last week’s elections arrived in Djukanovic’s camp from Washington and Niksic. Rather unusually, US President George Bush congratulated FRY President Vojislav Kostunica on the Yugoslav statehood day (which falls on April 27) a full eight days in advance, immediately prior to the elections in Montenegro. According to many foreign diplomats and certain international newspapers, such a gesture could be interpreted as a direct message to official Podgorica that Washington doesn’t view the project of independent Montenegro too kindly. Podgorica’s pro-government media failed to report Bush’s congratulations, but Vijesti daily, a day before the elections when the pre-election blackout was well in place, played a “counter move”, launching a story on how allegedly Kostunica and Djindjic had already mourned the loss of Montenegro and personally informed the British Foreign Secretary Robin Cook of it. Via this, as later turned out false but skillfully placed news, a way was obviously sought to “kill two birds” with one stone – the voters got the message that even official Belgrade had given up on any kind of joint state (so why shouldn’t they), and it was also hinted that Robin Cook was to arrive in Podgorica immediately after the elections which the Foreign Office seemed to have wanted to keep quiet about so that these news, and their willful interpretation, wouldn’t eventually be manipulated with prior to the elections.

Even though this time both sides didn’t overly insist on counting those present at the pre-election rallies, nor did they, like previously, derive any conclusions from it, news that the last pre-election rally of the Coalition for Yugoslavia in Niksic was attended by (for Montenegrin circumstances) an exceptionally large number of people could have, prior to the elections, proved worrisome to Djukanovic’s camp. Niksic is not only Djukanovic’s place of birth, but also the second largest city in Montenegro which rather determines the final election results. Obviously encouraged by the number of people they saw in front of them, the leader of the People’s Party (NS) Dragan Soc claimed at the pre-election rally in Niksic that on that evening in that city “the spine of the Duklja project has been broken”. A few days later, the Coalition for Yugoslavia, which Soc’s party belongs to, truly did win more votes in Niksic than their rivals. In one of the first interviews after the elections, Soc himself, after everything, measured his words and claimed that the story about the “independence of the Montenegrin state” still isn’t “ad acta” despite this outcome.

AWAKENING: In the rainy night in which results of the parliamentary elections were eagerly awaited, it seemed as though on the streets of Podgorica the supporters of the Coalition for Yugoslavia rejoiced more and in a louder manner. Their meeting place was in front of the Socialist People’s Party (SNP) headquarters. Two hours prior to the closure of the polling stations, one Croatian colleague confided to VREME’s reporter that he had “reliable information” that there would be bulldozers in front of SNP and that obviously “all sorts of things are in the works”. There were no bulldozers, and “all sorts of things” could only have related to the musical repertoire, or possibly to all sorts of things which in the form of drinks trickled down the throats of the soaked but satisfied supporters of the Coalition for Yugoslavia. As far as the music is concerned, there was folk music, followed by new patriotic melodies and traditional Serbian folk songs “it isn’t small, it isn’t small, it waged war three times”, with the demented verse “hopefully, it will do so again”, there were those who were very well acquainted with the Chetnik hits, but also those who with their choice of songs were stressing the Yugoslav more than pro-Serbian dimension of this coalition. The evening’s hit definitely was the old song Yugoslavia composed in Tito’s times, but geographically and musically shortened without mentioning the verse “from Vardar to Triglav”. The melody has remained the same, but on this evening the lyrics went “live happily in freedom, let Kostunica lead you, Yugoslavia, Yugoslavia”. Enthusiastic because with their votes they had “defended Yugoslavia” and “prevented the separatists from quarreling and separating us”, the supporters of this coalition called up a number of arguments on this night why Serbia and Montenegro must not separate. Someone mentioned Dejo Savicevic and Pedja Mijatovic and claimed that they would never have become what they are had they not played football in Belgrade as well. There were also arguments such as “more than half of my family is in Serbia”, or “how are we to separate when at least half of us had had our first taste of real life in Belgrade”. There were others who kept mentioning Milo Djukanovic in a rather ugly and insulting context.

The supporters of Djukanovic’s option awaited the results of the vote mostly in DPS’s headquarters in the government building next to the video beams, or in the Montenegro hotel next to their mobile phones. On both locations excitement and enthusiasm was at least two octaves lower than on previous occasions when at dawn even high state officials were known to fire their guns out of happiness, like the man who had then held one of the highest judicial functions in the state. This time in both camps hardly anyone celebrated the election results by firing. Now and again real fireworks were seen, but the reporters didn’t have to throw themselves on the streets like on previous occasions when there was an election in Montenegro.

The state election commission and all the monitors confirmed that the turnout was exceptionally high and that over 80 percent of the registered voters had cast their ballots, which only shows that during the campaign both opposed blocs managed to maximally motivate their potential supporters and convince them that their vote would prove crucial for the fate of the state. With this, both sides have probably exhausted all reserves which they could eventually count on for a referendum. On election day, VREME’s reporter found himself in Tuzine, where mostly Albanians live. In the vicinity of one polling station there was a graffiti “Milo, Tuzi are with you”. One of the local inhabitants called Fiko, a seventy-year-old, answers the question of what will happen after the elections with: “I don’t know. I’m for Milo because he defended us from Milosevic, because he prevented a war in Montenegro and because he promised that we would have an independent state. I don’t know, everyone says it will be better then.”

Some thirty or so kilometers further north, in the village of Medun, Fiko’s contemporary Ilija doesn’t hide that he voted against Milo, just like the majority of the people in this village, located in the vicinity of Marko Miljanov’s memorial house. A foreign colleague who wished to film some of the citizens of this village as they voted for his TV station was in for a long wait. All of them completed that business immediately after the polling stations opened, and in the course of the day, “only the odd grandma” was still expected. The majority of the population in this village proudly stress that they belong to the clan of Kuce and say that Kuce refuse to live separated from their brothers in Serbia. The question – what if the majority of the population of Montenegro opts for an independent state – is shortly answered by Ilija: “I will respect it, what else can I do, I have to, but it’s the same as if someone were to take my heart and soul. What can I do, I suffered through the occupation during the war, I’ll have to endure this now if I have to.”

IT COULD HAVE BEEN BETTER: Before he measures his next move, Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic will definitely have to make a serious analysis with his coalition partners of all that had occurred at the April 22 elections. All opinion polls said that the victory of the so-called Montenegrin bloc shouldn’t have been disputed, i.e. that it should have been immeasurably “better” than what was achieved. For a very serious analysis, one needs to include the stand of many people who are close to DPS that a referendum is an altogether different issue and that on it they could vote against the interests of the party they now support. In that case a reestablishment of the federal state could have precedence over its annulment, especially when one thinks of the family living in the other republic.

In some pre-elections analysis it seems the starting point was that Djukanovic’s option didn’t face a serious opponent and that in Montenegro, Yugoslavia was mostly defended by Milosevic’s castoffs, conservative and compromised parties, followed by the mainly older and less educated part of the population, those who deem themselves as more Serbian than Montenegrin, that there are a lot of “Chetnik” elements there and that the entire colorful crowd on whose rallies members of the national minorities were occasionally openly insulted actually has no serious chances to block the Montenegrin road to independence. The idea they defended turned out to be rather resilient and won a total of 164.000 votes. In post-election analysis it seems one should also start with the question – what would have happened if on April 22 Djukanovic’s bloc faced a somewhat better organized opponent, instead of the one which united at the last moment and appeared with the albeit apt slogan “let’s pull ourselves together” and warning that the future boundaries would actually be drawn over the hearts of the separated people instead of over the separated territory.

One of the people who definitely belongs amongst Djukanovic’s friends says that in the last few months a lot of mistakes were made in DPS. “I don’t understand why a part of the political elite surrounding Djukanovic became so impatient. They hurried for no reason with the story of a separate Montenegrin seat in the UN, and I’m sure we would have come to that in a year or two, since that seems to be the inevitable outcome. Maybe later even Belgrade would have supported something like it. Any collaboration with the new government was rejected from the start, which was criticized more than Milosevic earlier. Especially Kostunica. In everything that was said and done there was too much haste and impatience and slapdash decisions, so that many who felt that Djukanovic was closer and more acceptable in all aspects than the other side became distrustful and scared. It was quickly forgotten that at the last elections DPS appeared with the slogan `a democratic Montenegro in a democratic Yugoslavia and Europe’. One part of the voters apparently didn’t like to see Yugoslavia abandoned so quickly. All of a sudden a lot of intolerant people appeared around Djukanovic, which until now was a characteristic of his political opponents, a return to the historic past was overdone, differences were needlessly insisted upon, a television was made which served as counter-propaganda since it continuously aired the Montenegrin version of “we love you, oh homeland of ours”. Not to mention the fawning characters.”

Some foreign reporters noticed these days that in Montenegro in the last few months history was being readdressed quite seriously in order to find as many details from the Roman period when Podgorica was called Dokleja (Duklja), although even Belgrade was known as Singidunum back then. Due to this, a certain journal ironically dubbed the Montenegrin President Miloclecian. The aim of all that digging and search for details is to point out the different origin of the Montenegrins, and for now academician Jevrem Brkovic has dug up the most, and is incessantly promoting the Montenegrin language. Many of DPS’s supporters and those who want an independent Montenegro aren’t all that pleased when they see the academician in an “Audi” which seems to have been a present from the state. When viewed from the sidelines, in the long-term Djukanovic’s project could be harmed by the fact that he is surrounded by too many rich people. Many of the ministers of the state which by its statistics has a fairly exhausted economy, come to work in (often personal) luxurious vehicles, which is a lot more apparent in small towns than in Belgrade. Maybe also on account of this, this time DPS fared poorly at the elections in the regions where many influential ministers come from. At the day when the final rally of the Montenegro’s Victory coalition in Podgorica was held, many who belong to the immediate or wider presidential escort parked their vehicles in front of the local hotel. As a foreign reporter quickly calculated, that evening a few million DM were parked only in “jeeps”. All of those “details”, joined together, could maybe partially explain why, despite fairly widespread expectations, the pro-Montenegrin bloc didn’t come close to the two-thirds majority at these elections.

FIRST OR FORTH: In the following days, Milo Djukanovic, judging by all counts, will find himself facing harsh temptations. The liberals will pressure him to hurry up with calling a referendum, while the international community will send its message not to make any unilateral moves or to give up the referendum altogether since that could have serious impacts and create divisions in Montenegro. Practically all important international offices have already sent such a message to Podgorica or returned things to the formula “a democratic Montenegro in a democratic Yugoslavia”. As to the question whether economic aid to Montenegro would be greater in case of its independence – Gunar Vigand, European Commission spokesman, very directly answers that it is “difficult to imagine that a country of 600.000 citizens can receive greater support than what it is now receiving”.

Djukanovic himself tried after the first unslept night to offer a clear answer to all the dilemmas on what direction the government in Montenegro would take. In his first TV interview after the elections, he said that there is no reason to change strategies and at the same time that there is no reason to give up the referendum, despite the opinion of many analysts that at this moment that would be a highly risky move. The president of Montenegro has thereby indicated (remembering perhaps his old nickname of “Razor”) that he is ready, or so it seems, to cut things down at the very beginning before anyone from Belgrade might offer new federal elections or new negotiations on the fate of the formally joint state. Djukanovic also deems that a coalition collaboration with the liberals won’t present too great a problem with regards to the similarity of the ultimate stands of DPS and the Liberal Alliance (LS). The top liberal officials, aware of the weight of their six seats, have already stated that it will act as though it has an incomparably greater number of seats on its hands.

As far as collaboration with the liberals is concerned, at the end, despite their joint goals, it could prove to be fairly unpredictable. The top officials of this party, or so it seems, “hate Djukanovic from the bottom of their hearts”, who they are incessantly accusing of having taken over or even stolen their political program. In DPS, they jokingly say that LS is mainly a party of kids who declare themselves so while spending their parent’s money and who later, once they grow up, become DPS. That things won’t be all that smooth in the collaboration was demonstrated at the first LS meeting in Cetinje where the election success of this party was being celebrated last Monday. At each mention of the name of the Montenegrin president, those gathered shouted “Milo, thief”, after which even the honorary LS president had to intervene. During the pre-election campaign, the DPS speaker of parliament Svetozar Marovic claimed at the rally in Spuzi that “Montenegro cannot be defended by the humoristic circus which calls itself the Liberal Alliance and which is making a humoresque out of the state”. Prior to these elections the Montenegrin bloc, in one of its marketing messages, raised the following question to the citizens of Montenegro “Montenegro, what else”. The what else could for starters mean that the entire project is put into “first gear” instead of into “fourth”, as Djukanovic is currently stating. Some analysts from Podgorica believe that the current government has gone too far with the story and promises of an independent state, so that looking for “first gear” or “reverse” direction would now be equally as dangerous as stepping on the gas after the elections which have shown that Montenegro is severely divided over the issue of the future status of the state. 

In Montenegro obviously nothing is easy anymore, nor simple. After these elections many have, apparently prematurely, hastened to delete an independent Montenegro as a concept even though the largest number of citizens have voted for the representatives of that option. Many have also hastened to delete negotiations on the federal state prematurely because they believe that a country cannot be redrawn in which the same finance minister once quietly watches as Kertes takes money out of the budget and gives it away unlawfully, and then sits in a government which believes that Kertes and Milosevic have to go to jail for such a thing. At the same time, there are those both in Belgrade and in Podgorica who openly fear that with these elections nothing has been resolved because the uncertainty over whether the federal state exists will obviously last for quite a while. The entire issue could possibly be thus formulated: on Sunday, April 22 the door which leads to a joint state has remained ajar. The novelty is that the Montenegrin leg planted in this door seems to be nicer.


In one of the last duels prior to the beginning of the election blackout, the TV viewers asked, among other things, the participants of the program Filip Vujanovic (DPS), Rifat Rastodera, Socialist Democratic Party (SDP), Predgrag Drecun (NS) and Dragan Koprivica (SNP) – what language they spoke. Drecun immediately said that his language was Serbian. Vujanovic, with a smile, noted that he speaks exactly what is stated in Montenegro’s Constitution, meaning – the Serbian language of the ijekavski dialect. Koprivica confirmed that, while Rastoder opposed that constitutional formulation. 


In the pre-election surmises on when an independent Montenegrin state could be proclaimed, the date of July 13 often popped up, as was the wider elaboration of the meaning of the number 13. For example, July 13, 1878 was mentioned, when Montenegro was talked about at the Berlin congress, followed by July 13, 1941, when the battle for a free state commenced. It later turned out that DPS’s propaganda department (and maybe some of Jevrem’s historians) found a lot more significant dates with the number 13 which testified that it was a lucky number for this state. On top of that, no one seemed to mind that some of those dates (with a slight exaggeration) belong to the times immediately after the appearance of amebas on the planet. Subsequently one arrived at the fact that the coalition Montenegro’s Victory – Milo Djukanovic was under the number 13 on the election ballot. On the day of the elections, the pro-government Pobjeda daily published on the front page that Montenegro’s team in the Buducnost club won the 13th Yugoslav women’s handball champion title, which was used to suggest to the readers who to vote for with the caption “Buducnost (the future) is number 13”.

At one pre-election rally in Zeta, one of the top DPS officials revealed that there were exactly 13 letters in Milo Djukanovic’s name, which was seen as a definite sign of a landslide victory in which all seemed to have started falling into place. At the beginning, the story about Milo and the number 13 had a fawning characteristic, but later the same story was repeated very seriously by people who could never be regarded as immature politicians, or people prone to interpreting political processes with parapsychology.

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