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    Copyright: The following text is for personal information only. Any professional use or publication in written or electronic form is subject to an agreement with AIM, 17 rue Rebeval, F-75019 Paris, France

    TUE, 15 OCT 1996 09:36:25 GMT

    Albanians at Montenegrin Elections

    RETURN TO PARLIAMENT

    AIM, Podgorica, October 16, 1996.

    Although almost seventy percent of the Albanians in Montenegro voted at the last elections for Democratic Alliance (DS), their national party did not manage to get into the Republican Parliament. At that time the proportionate electoral system was in force with Montenegro as one electoral unit - only a hundred of votes were missing for exceeding the census. The Democratic Party leadership is waiting rather calmly for the November onset.

    It is common knowledge: according to the new electoral rule Krajina from the commune of Bar was joined with Ulcinj, and Malesija was separated from Podgorica into a separate electoral unit. In these regions the Albanians make an absolute majority, and taken together this indicates that they can get four deputies in the Montenegrin Parliament. The Democratic Alliance believes that the majority of Albanians will vote for it and that this time they will be surely voted in. "Actually, according to this electoral law we are in a more favourable position than before. But, let us get one thing clear: the Democratic Party of Socialists has neither asked not consulted us regarding the division of Montenegro into 14 electoral units. It has done it for its own sake. The proportionate electoral system, with Montenegro as one electoral unit, would also suit us under the condition that the electoral limit is either abolished or significantly lowered.

    A completely different solution is also quite acceptable: let each party nominate its representatives among the Albanians and let them decide for themselves who will be their legitimate representatives", says Mehmed Bardhi,leader of the Democratic Alliance.

    There is no more hope for the establishment of the "great coalition" of all important opposition parties in Montenegro which, by various estimates, could have effortlessly reduced the Democratic Party of Socialist well below the absolute majority. During negotiations of the opposition leaders Bardhi mostly kept to himself. According to him such an alliance would have made sense for the Democratic Alliance had Montenegro remained one electoral unit. However, he is prepared to cooperate with all other opposition parties in electoral units in which that is in everybody's interest.

    "We can significantly influence the elections in Ulcinj and Malesija, we carry a certain weight in Bar, and we can help a little in Plav and Rozaje. What can we do to help or spoil in Savnik and Pluzine, and why should we meddle" explains Bardhi his reasons for selective cooperation. Talks with the Liberals and Populists who have joined forces in election alliance under the name "National Unity" as well as with the Social-Democratic Party did not bear fruit, except for, most probably tacit agreement on non-aggression. Since the propaganda of the ruling party is this time keeping an eye on other, stronger opponents, the Democratic Alliance is entering the election campaign rather quietly. This, however, does not mean that Bardhi will play the second fiddle in the future parliament.

    Ever since the first elections the Democratic Alliance was a coalition partner of the Party of Democratic Action and it is quite certain that this partnership will continue this fall too. As far as it seems, the Democratic Alliance's electorate will help the SDA in Rozaje and Plav and in return expects its help in Podgorica and Bar. It has not been agreed yet whether these parties will form one deputy club after the elections or perhaps act independently as they see fit. This is not at issue - it is already visible now that allies are not always like-minded. As of recent the SDA has turned into a harsh opponent of the state sovereignty of Montenegro, and thus considers the participation in the federal elections its patriotic duty.

    The Democratic Alliance has a different view: "We shall not take part in the federal elections as a matter of principle. We, the Albanians, have in no way taken part in the creation of the Zabljak FRY. No one asked us anything, we are in an inequitable position - both we as the Albanians and Montenegro as a Republic. Until the problem of Kosovo is resolved there can be no true democratic process here. Montenegrins should be the first to fight for sovereign Montenegro, and it is up to them whether it will be independent or not. It is our duty to help them, but we cannot be bigger Catholics than the Pope. I want to make it clear: it is the indisputable right of Montenegrins to aspire for independence of Montenegro and that aspiration is not contrary to the Albanian interests. Naturally, we shall demand equality in sovereign Montenegro", explains Bardhi.

    The leader of the Democratic Alliance says everything is possible after the elections - he is only explicit that his party will not hamper the opposition to the benefit of the authorities. "With these small forces that the Democratic Alliance has, we shall surely help the democratic parties of Montenegrin orientation. We are interested in the establishment of democratic foundations of the society, but also have to take account of the national interests. Let me also say this: I do not rule out a coalition with the DPS either, on condition that they publicly show that they have changed. That practically means that they should return Valdanos, the coastal area they have taken away for the public enterprise "Sea Resources", recognize demands for greater equality in the fields of culture, education. In that case, why not", says the leader of the Democratic Alliance. Since chances for such a turnabout on the part of the DPS are slim, Bardhi thinks that if no one wins absolute majority, the creation of an opposition government will be more probable.

    The Memorandum on the Special Status of the Albanians in Montenegro clarified how the Democratic Alliance sees the equality of the nation on whose behalf it acts. This 1992 document has caused strong reactions: the Montenegrin opposition disagreed, it stirred up a conflict among the Albanians and, what is interesting, only the authorities silently tolerated its publication. Judging by all, the top echelons of the Democratic Party of Socialists saw the Albanian demand as a good sign that the front for anti-war and democratic Montenegro was starting to shake.

    In the meantime the authorities showed what they think of the basic rights of the Albanian population. The Albanians are rarely hold any confidential state positions - in the police and similar fields. There is not a single one in the Government. The Albanian representatives are most sensitive when it comes to equality in education. There are many interesting details there. The Republican Supervisor for the Albanian language - is not an Albanian. School prefects are appointed by the Montenegrin Government under one condition which, without any national discrimination, applies to everyone: they have to be members of the Democratic Party of Socialists. Such personnel potential is extremely suitable for implementing plans and programmes in which, as Albanians of different party affiliations claim, their national history, culture and literature are reduced to folklore.

    Apart from gradually disappearing from state services and school curricula, Albanians are equally absent from everyday life. According to the last census there were 42 thousand Albanians in Montenegro. No one saw those lists, but everyone knows - an equal number of them are all over the world: in Detroit, New York, Chicago. Almost every Albanian in Montenegro has more relatives in one of the Americas, than in his home country. About 10 thousand emigrated from Ulcinj and its surrounding alone. Hardly anyone was concerned over the fact that whole families move out leaving behind deserted villages. "Don't you see how many Albanians have taken their cradles with them across the ocean" - asked Petar Perkolic, Archbishop of Bar, at the last meeting of the President's Council for the Protection of National and Ethnic Groups. "We are moving out, brother, both we and the Montenegrins, and nobody is any worse for it"- an expert explained.

    "Only if we secure equality and speedier development for our regions we shall be able to halt the emigration of the Albanian population which has started back in 1968 and has acquired disastrous proportions as of 1980. That is why the demands of the Democratic Alliance will be the same, no matter who wins the forthcoming elections. We shall demand equality in the economy, politics, culture and education from any authorities. We know full well what these authorities brought us so that a change cannot hurt", says Mehmed Bardhi. The Albanians in the Montenegrin civil parties are no less in the mood for change. They are not to be neglected and will spare no effort to win the confidence of their people.

    By tailoring the electoral units all around Montenegro, the top men of the ruling party have actually set a trap: since they do not stand a chance anyway, let the Liberals and Social-Democrats with the Democratic Alliance fight over the Albanian votes. After that the DPS could volunteer to calm the spirits. However, for the time being there have been no public clashes between the DS and other opposition parties. The calculation is simple. The Albanians are aware irrespective of their party orientation that only if the DPS loses an absolute majority will it be possible to resolve their demands in Montenegro under normal conditions. Also, leaders of the Montenegrin opposition parties know full well that by securing a place for the Democratic Alliance in a new joint government Montenegro would show both to itself and the world that it can chose a different way.

    Esad KOCAN (AIM) Podgorica