SAT, 05 OCT 1996 21:25:12 GMT
Bargaining to the Last Breath
Stories that Montenegrin opposition parties are, in comparison with the Serbian opposition, politically more mature and united - have been resolutely denied in the past few days. A little over a month before the elections scheduled for November 3, it is quite clear that the Social Democratic Party (SDP), which ranks third according to the number of deputies in the Parliament, will not join the electoral coalition christened National Harmony. At the recently held session of the Main Board of the SDP, by a majority of votes, it was decided that this party will run in the forthcoming republican and federal elections on its own.
This marked definite failure of the possibility of creation of a three-member alliance of three most powerful parliamentary parties - National Party (NS), Liberal Alliance (LSCG) and SDP of Montenegro. At the same time, chances of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) to win the elections again and maybe get hold of absolute power became realistic. Thanks to amendments of the election law, the ruling party introduced on the sly majority election system in Montenegro and opened the possibility for itself to win absolute majority in the Assembly of Montenegro with the support of only some thirty odd per cents of the electorate.
"Since these are two authentic and opposite political viewpoints which represent the democratic tissue of Montenegro, I belive that our coalition is a truly democratic and historical phenomenon on the political scene of Montenegro", says Novak Kilibarda, President of the National Party. The Nationals and the Liberals have agreed that their joint objective was to overturn the non-democratic DPS from power, and to temporarily put major political issues concerning which their viewpoints differ - national issue, state status, church, question of language - "on ice", until democratic conditions are created for the citizens of Montenegro to state their opinion about them in a referendum.
Apart from profound, strategic reasons, creation of the coalition "National Harmony" was motivated by utterly pragmatic reasons. In order to "abolish the non-democratic authorities in Montenegro" - united force of the Liberals and the Nationals is insufficient, creation of a broader alliance is necessary. Initial announcements of association of Montenegrin opposition arrived two days after coalition National Harmony had been created: Main Board of the Social Democratic Party decided on August 24 to join the electoral alliance of the Liberals and the Nationals. An affirmative answer was also expected from the two parties which gather the Muslims and the Albanians in Montenegro - the SDA for Montenegro and the Democratic Alliance. Electoarl calculation indicated that there was very good reason for association of politically heterogeneous parties: sum of votes of these five parties guaranteed that the DPS would be deprived of power.
It turned out, however, that there was no reason for optimism. Harun Hadzic, leader of the SDA who experienced torture during the rule of the DPS and spent a year in jail in Bijelo Polje, informed the weekly Monitor that his party was not interested in creation of a large coalition against the DPS! President of the Democratic Alliance, Mehmed Bardhi, was in favour of forming a coalition in some of the municipalities, but nevertheless did not wish to join the National Harmony.
It was relied upon the fact that an alliance of the Nationals, the Liberals and the Social Democrats would be an equal rival to the DPS in the elections. However, official joining of the SDP was postponed from day to day. The first disagreements emerged concerning division of future seats in the parliament. Leadership of the SDP believed that they were entitled to at least seven deputies, while heads of the NS and the LSCG came to the conclusion that the Social Democrats should be satisfied with the ratio according to which the National Party would have 15, the Liberal Alliance 14, and Social Democrats 5 deputies in the designed election success amounting to 36 deputy seats they had expected to win. After exhausting talks, the leadership of the SDP accepted the offered proposal.
But, proclamation of the triple alliance still did not occur. Negotiations got stuck again, this time because of the manner of decision-making and determination of the first on the lists of candidates. According to the Social Democrats, humiliating conditions were to offered them again. "Previously agreed formulations were abandoned, according to which future club of deputies would reach decisions by concensus, and if not - by two-thirds majority which would include majority of deputies of each member of the alliance. We cannot accept to be left without any possibility to influence decisions of the future club of deputies", explained the essence of the dispute Zarko Rakcevic, President of SDP. The Social Democrats also felt deprived in determination of the first candidates on the lists. The Nationals and the Liberals, based on election results from 1992, offered the SDP to have the leading candidates on the list of electoral district Plav-Rozaje. Leaders of the SDP, though, believe that their Party must have the first candidates on lists in at least two out of 14 electoral districts, since three mayors in 20 Montenegrin municipalities are members of the SDP.
"Minimum conditions" which Rakcevic and his party friends insisted on was the key issue for interruption of further negotiations. The latest meeting of presidents of the three parties, Kilibarda, Perovic and Rakcevic, was interrupted after a bitter polemic and mutual accusations. In the course of last week, vice-presidents of the SDP, Ranko Krivokapic and Rifat Ratoder, tried to restore negotiations, but it was all in vain. "For me the story about whether the SDP will join the coalition National Harmony is - history. With their endless hesitation, the Social Democrats have brought this outcome about. I am sorry because of it, but everybody is responsible for their own destiny", Slavko Perovic, President of the Liberal Alliance, was resolute.
After the latest decision of the Main Board of the SDP- there is no dilemma - the SDP will run in the elections on its own. Such a decision will cause serious consequences on the political scene of Montenegro. The first to feel them will be the Social Democrats themselves. The new election law adopted solely by deputies of the SDP in the Montenegrin parliament, makes winning seats in the assembly very difficult for the small parties. The intention of the ruling party is quite transparent: relying on the assumption that it will win the largest number of votes, the DPS wishes to ensure absolute power by winning the "dispersed" votes won by parties which will not make it to the parliament. Even if they won about twenty thousand votes - and that is how many former SDPR and SPV which formed the SDP had won - Rakcevic's SDP will have less deputies than they had won four years ago. This is the logic of the new election law. Besides, return of the SDA might significantly reduce the number of votes of the SDP in the environments with majority Muslim population. As things appear at the moment, the SDP can count on three seats, because it is popular in Rozaje, Plav, Bar and to a certain extent Podgorica. Of course, under the condition they preserve unity in the party after all these developments.
Calculation shows that the ruling DPS will benefit the most from the quarrel of the three opposition parties. The force of the coalition in which the SDP would be present along with the NS and the LSCG could not be underestimated: more than ninety thousand votes (sum of votes of the three parties in the last elections) seriously threatens the ruling party in Montenegro. Absence of the SDP changes the situation drastically. Indicators from the last elections are merciless: the two strongest opposition parties got a little over 73 thousand votes, and the DPS 126 thousand. Even if due to bad results of the rule of the DPS, the number of its sympathizers had dropped by thirty odd per cent, it is hard to believe in victory of the coalition National Harmony. Besides, the DPS will win another few deputy seats by electioneering, which might be decisive for winning absolute power. Of course, leaders of the three strongest opposition parties were aware of all these calculations. It seems that separate interests have overpowered declarative unity against "absolute power of a single party in Montenegro".
Leaders of the ruling party in Montenegro have not even tried to conceal satisfaction with the outcome of three parliamentary opposition parties. "In Montenegro, the only strong and significant party is the DPS, and all the others are marginal and incapable to unite in the struggle against us", Predrag Bulatovic, head of the club of deputies of the DPS, triumphantly stated. In the meantime, the ruling DPS is calmly preparing for the elections. As announmced it will apply diverse tactics: a little music, a little politics. For such a promotion they obviously do not lack money - it is assessed that the DPS will invest fantastic million marks in the election campaign. The first spectacle is in Podgorica. A rock concert with a few rock bands and other entertainers - to mark the official beginning of the rush of the ruling DPS towards its new election vicory.
If the DPS does win absolute power in Montenegro again, an interesting game awaits the opposition: to determine who should be blamed for giving the few decisive seats in the parliament to the ruling party. But, hardly anyone will be interested to find that out after the elections.