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April 27, 2001
. Vreme News Digest Agency No 488
State of the Affairs

Rays of Hope

by Stojan Cerovic

What next?  This is a question, above all for Djukanovic himself.  For instance, he was the first one to declare victory, which was only logical and expected.  What else could he have said to the excited crowd to which he promised freedom, Europe and the end of Serbian tyranny?  His next reaction, and a more mature one at that, could be to submit his resignation.  An even more mature reaction for him would be to sit down and take a long look at the country before him, and than to call Predrag Bulatovic, Djindjic and Kostunica and tell them that he is ready.  That would be the easier part of his duty as a statesman and a patriot.

The harder part would be to go among his staunchest supporters, those who are the angriest and most combative, and to explain the situation to them.  He would have to admit that he overdid it a little, that in actual fact Kostunica is a little better than Milosevic, and that Montenegrins do not need to go into battle for liberation, but can devote their time to other activities.  Therefore, Djukanovic would need to organize a peaceful and disciplined withdrawal from his political position of secession in which he finds himself without majority support of the electorate, and would need to begin work on bringing together the segments of his people whose division he contributed to.

If he does this, everyone else in Montenegro and Serbia should help him, because what is at issue is common interest.  Djukanovic did not behave in a friendly manner, at least not from the point of view of Belgrade: he spoke ill about Serbia before the rest of the world, he waged a policy of burning all bridges, he deluded the citizens of Montenegro and tied his fate to secession, but in all this he still did not overstep all boundaries.  He did not pass the point of no return, even though it is true that this return can no longer have an elegant appearance.

What Djukanovic represents and what he stood for in the election is one large segment of Montenegro which always existed, which will continue to exist and can in no way be ignored, even if it is admitted that there will not be any secession.  This segment of Montenegro which played a courageous and skillful game with Milosevic, tried on this occasion to dupe the rest of Montenegro by presenting it as a primitive, rural segment of a dark past, and to out vote it in this speedy maneuver.  This plan did not work, but this does not mean that the exact opposite worked and that Bulatovic and Zizic should now call on Belgrade to help them in stifling the separatists.

With Djukanovic or without, it is clear that the two Montenegros will once again come together and find common language with Serbia, with should not be too difficult, given that Serbia nearly gave up on the idea of having a coastline.  Virtually every formula of minimal joint official functions stands to be accepted by Belgrade, but probably only under condition that Montenegro agrees with this.  Namely, Serbia is working hard on finding inner balance and is partly succeeding in this, with Montenegrin internal conflicts being something that Serbia hardly needs at this moment.  For this reason the citizens of Serbia might say that they have no desire to have a coastline, just so that they can avoid conflicts and mutual accusations with Montenegro.  Since the ball is in Djukanovic’s court at this time and since he managed to work himself into a corner, he could certainly decide to use all means in playing out a game in which he is bound to lose, and in this he would look very much like Milosevic.  It is clear that this would lead into a conflict – perhaps even into actual war with Montenegro – along old lines of division, with Milo Djukanovic being the only one to blame for such a catastrophe.  Right now this path seems easier – all that is needed is to accept political inertia, to be confident, proud and arrogant, to listen to the sycophants in the local media, to agree with various Montenegrin academicians who are inventing a Dukljan clan identity and with those who are founding an alternative Montenegrin Orthodox Church, to show disdain for ones opponents, to take into account certain business interests, etc.  All this has already been seen and played out here and seems so irresistible.  Counter to this is the path of restraint, of withdrawal, of accepting defeat, of impotence and guilt, of accepting responsibility before everyone who followed him, of confronting a poor finish and a small place in history – and all of this while he is still in power.  Djukanovic certainly needs a lot of strength and courage for this.  He will have to put up with accusations of, let us say, betrayal of Montenegro, or something of similar weight.  But he still has space to maneuver a withdrawal which could be presented in somewhat better light, and in which he could salvage a little of his political inheritance.  Besides this, Milosevic is absolutely unique.  Djukanovic does not harbor such ambitions, he is not married to Mira Markovic, he is incapable of living in a bunker and did not grow up with Russian cinematography, but with Italian television programs.  This ought to mean that he should be capable of withdrawing and of restraining himself from playing with hot fire.  Certainly, the way back and the sobering of Montenegro will be a slow process, for there is hardly a single voice left there which has not been corrupted and which has a modicum of reliability and articulation.  But these elections did manage to mark an exit from a long phase of disintegration.  The votes Djukanovic lost between the last and these newest elections are of votes of hope in the future.

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