MON, 20 JAN 1997 21:41:19 GMT
Trio at the Turning-Point
Bulatovic, Marovic and Djukanovic, it seems, have never faced such a serious dilemma as now. They must choose between loyalty to their "political father" Slobodan Milosevic, and probably the last "carrot" the world is offering them. This time they do not appear to agree about what is to be done
AIM Podgorica, 14 January, 1997
Stories about conflicts inside the Montenegrin authorities have never ended, ever since their inauguration, after the anti-bureaucratic revolution in 1989. Already at the time, rumour went around Podgorica that "in strict confidence" Milo Djukanovic was dissatisfied with the post of secretary general of the League of Communists of Montenegro he had got instead of the President's which fell to the share of Momir Bulatovic. In the following eight years such "information" every now and then reached the public (were issued?), disturbing sympathizers of the authorities, and encouraging their opposition. The epilogue of all these "controversies" within the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) showed that these were not at all essential disagreements among the leaders of the ruling party, but intentionally fabricated rumours intended to satisfy and cover the entire electorate (the left and the right, the pro-Serb and the pro-Montenegrin...).
Is the same thing happening now, when stories about the split of the leadership in the DPS have become topical again? They were allegedly inspired by different views of the developments in Serbia after invalidation of the results of local elections in cities won by Together coalition. At first sight, one would say that rumours are unfounded again, because all three Montenegrin leaders have indeed declared themselves in favour of "respect of the will of the citizens expressed in the elections". They even openly spoke about damages done to Montenegro due to refusal of Serbian authorities to recognize the victory of the opposition. "In the past few days, we can conclude with sorrow that many business arrangements, credits which our enterprises had expected to be extended, deals guaranteed by our banks were postponed with a curt and in the business world frightening warning that general circumstances have not yet been created for realization of the contracted projects". This list of consequences of the political crisis which is shaking Serbia for two months already presented to the public by Momir Bulatovic, should of course be supplmented with the two essential ones: postponement of reception of the FRY in international financial institutions, the World Bank and the IMF, and the threat of re-introduction of sanctions against Belgrade.
Prime Minister Djukanovic, on the occasion of inauguration of his new cabinet in the Assembly of the Republic, announced that they would be forced to use "the constitutional capacities of Montenegro" in the foreign political sphere, in order to finally join the international centres of financial power. Montenegrin Prime Minister made it clear that Podgorica had no time to waste and wait for economic and ownership reforms of Belgrade. Moreover, he uttered the "heretical" sentence that, if its vital interests were endangered, Montenegro would demand lifting of the outer wall of the sanctions in order to be able to directly join the IMF.
As the crisis in Serbia aggravated, the difference in the degree of disassociation of the three Montenegrin leaders from the latest moves of Milosevic's regime is becoming more and more obvious. The President of the state and of the DPS remained on the level of "well-meaning suggestions" to have things resolved in the "institutions of the system", with a cautious criticism why problems had not been "resolved at the moment they appeared". The Prime Minister and the Chairman of the Assembly, who are also Vice-Presidents of the ruling party went much further. Speaking to Radio Budva on reflections of post-election events in Serbia on Montenegro, Svetozar Marovic uttered words which appeared on front pages of many Belgrade journals the following day. "It all costs us tremendously, it conflicts the FRY with the world again, postpones return of our country into international institutions, prevents prospects of revival of our economy and creation of conditions for normal life of our citizens. Nobody has the right to do that. Not even the President of Serbia has the right to do that, but especially his wife with the phantom organization which initiated many problems in Serbia". With this statement, the Chairman of the Montenegrin parliament joined Prime Minister Djukanovic in the open conflict with Mira Markovic, but what is even more important, he moved the confrontation with her husband, Slobodan Milosevic, to undreamt-of limits.
What Marovic had explicitly said, the Prime Minister did with a letter of support to Belgrade students. In this way every possibility to bury the hatchet dug up a long time ago by him and the President of Serbia was lost for good. Two out of three leading men of Montenegrin political establishment in this way quite clearly disassociated themselves from non-democratic moves of the Serbian regime. Moreover, for the political vocabulary unusually bluntly, reexamination of the attitude to the authorities in the other republic was announced, but it seems to something even much greater. "As a man who believes in reason and measure, I hope that political solutions will soon be found through dialogue and recognition of election results. If not, I believe that Montenegro would have to seriously consider its next moves", Svetozar Marovic said.
What has the President of the Republic been doing during all that time? On several occasions, Bulatovic commented on developments in Serbia, but dissonance in relation to Marovic and Djukanovic is more than obvious. In the interview given to Paris Figaro, he sensationally reveals that four days after the local elections in Serbia, Milosevic "admitted" to him that the opposition had won in a few big cities. The stress is, however, on the allegation that the President of Serbia was ready at the time to recognize these results, and that the guilty party for what has happened later on was - somewhere else. Bulatovic has, therefore, tried to protect Milosevic laying the blame on a few key people from the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS), and the thesis that the leader was deceived was also launched by some media which are considered to be close to the Serbian authorities. However, neither the domestic opposition, nor the international public, which was much more important to its authors, took the bait.
The latest attestation about opposite views of the stance of Montenegro to the political crisis in Serbia arrived through the interview of Predrag Bulatovic, head of the club of deputies of the DPS in the Assembly of the Republic, and the man of confidence of the President given to Novi Sad Nedeljni Dnevnik. "Our coalition partner, the SPS, still has time, as the most powerful and the ruling party, for the sake of Serbia and the FRY, to make a just and democratic turn of the situation", this Mr. Bulatovic assessed. Hardly anyone doubts that it was actually Momir speaking through Predrag's mouth. It is not difficult to distinguish the tone of that statement from the one of the cited Marovic's statement. The President of the Republic, it is believed pushed forward his man of confidence, because it would have been too conspicuous, after Marovic's statement, if he himself had so mildly commented on the move which scandalized the whole democratic world. By the way, during the recent session of the Montenegrin parliament, tension between Predrag Bulatovic and Svetozar Marovic was evident. The greatest surprise was reading of the letter with which Momir Bulatovic addressed the Assembly and sharply rebuked the Chairman (Marovic) for permitting the deputies of the opposition to speak about the President of the Republic in inappropriate language.
Of course, if space permitted, differences in stances of the leaders of the DPS could have been illustrated by many more quotations of what they or their spokesmen had uttered in the past two months. The essence, however, is clear: Marovic's and Djukanovic's criticism of the authorities in Serbia (read: Milosevic) is radical. Bulatovic's criticism sounds as if forced out and calculated to preserve the political mentor from Tolstoy street. It was rather a concession made to the international community than a sincere personal stance. "Behavior" of state-controlled media also shows that something is wrong in the ruling party, that assessments have not been harmonized. TV Montenegro, in its central Daily News program, carried almost the integral text of the mentioned interview of Predrag Bulatovic. On the other hand, the media "hit", Marovic's statement given to Radio Budva was only mentioned late in the evening in the unpopular late news. Not a single other state-controlled media carried it, nor Djukanovic's congratulations to students of Belgrade University, except that both information were "smuggled" in through contributions of reporters of Radio Montenegro from Belgrade!
Well-informed sources claim that disagreements concerning developments in Serbia are a continuation of disagreements in connection with composition of the Republican Government. At the session of the Main Board of the DPS when the final list of ministers was determined, some candidates were disqualified with hard words, and it was impossible to conceal the controversy between the two factions gathered around the President and the Prime Minister. It is interesting that Svetozar Marovic who was believed to be close to Bulatovic, supported Djukanovic on the occasion. Later events, as it turned out, showed that their stances concerning events in Serbia coincided. As it usually happens in environments where flow of information from the authorities towards the citizens is limited, great significance was given to the fact that Djukanovic and Marovic were together for the New Year's eve in Budva, while Bulatovic spent the "craziest night" in Hotel Plaza in Herceg-Novi, "alone".
Of course, it would be wrong and hasty to draw conclusions about a irreconcilable conflict at the top of the DPS, although discord is evident. So far, the trio Bulatovic, Marovic, Djukanovic operated perfectly, fully aware that they were strong only if they were together. Which, again, does not at all mean that there were no disagreements before. Nevertheless, it seems - never as serious as this time. It is understandable, in view of the fact that most probably the moment has come for final break with Milosevic. Remaining with their longtime political protector almost certainly implies breaking of the with great difficulty established link with the international centres of political and financial power. It seems that Milo Djukanovic and Svetozar Marovic have made up their minds and that they are not willing to once again superimpose loyalty to Slobodan Milosevic to interest of Montenegro and their own.
Momir Bulatovic does not seem to be ready for such a move. His fear of possible recovery of Milosevic appears to be stronger than the concern that the state he is the head of, thanks primarily to his fascination with Milosevic (but also with communist ideology?) will miss another train which could take it closer to democracy and economic prosperity. In one of the "portraits" of Bulatovic published in Monitor four years ago, he was presented as a typical "officer's child", unwilling to rebel against authority. Another trait of such a personality is selfishness and vanity in relation to rivals from the same level of power. Connoisseurs of circumstances at the top of Montenegrin authorities claim that it is becoming more and more difficult to conceal this characteristic of the President of the Republic after in election campaign Djukanovic's popularity proved to be undoubtedly greater than his own.
The international community will decisively influence the denouement in Serbia. It is not hard to assume that the same will go for Montenegro. Regardless of the evident differences, it is hard to believe that they will develop into an open conflict inside the DPS. Finally, let us repeat, they know very well that they are the strongest only when they are together. But, in what direction they will choose to go, time will show.