THU, 10 APR 1997 23:23:11 GMT
AIM, PODGORICA, April 4, 1997
In only one week the Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic suffered two major defeats in his own party. First, on March 24, after 15-hour debate, the DPS Main Board almost unanimously sided with President Bulatovic. After that, on March 31, the Executive Committee of the DPS Main Board (a kind of a Politburo) affirmed that, if he wanted to keep his seat as Prime Minister, Djukanovic had to throw away from his cabinet several Ministers and most loyal assistants. The Prime Minister refused to carry out these two orders.
The conflict is nearing its merciless end. Djukanovic has already paid a high price for the defeats he had suffered till now in the inter-party war. At the DPS Main Board, he resigned from the office of the Vice - President of the party, and after the Government session, accepted the resignation of Ratko Knezevic, head of the Montenegrin Trade Mission in Washington. Knezevic mortally offended the Serbian President by calling him "the evil spirit" and "the Balkan dictator". The official release from that session of the Government exuded the spirit of self - criticism: "Although guided by the freedom of expression, certain statements of state officials might have caused much harm to the DPS policy in this over-heated atmosphere". Hardly anyone expected such a conciliatory tone to appease Bulatovic. Slavko Daljevic, Vice - President of the Government, Goran Rakocevic, Minister of Culture, and Vukasin Maras, Chief of Secret Police, remained on the elimination list. Djukanovic did not expect any clemency either. This was a classical case of tactical deployment of forces for the crucial battle.
Poor "state officials", did not say or do anything that Djukanovic had not already done before them. "Milosevic is an obsolete politician", "Montenegro is capable of defending itself from foreign aggressors, but not from the import of hyper-inflation from Serbia", "The competent republican authorities should provide the Government with more precise guidelines for an independent, alternative approach to the international institutions" - stated the Montenegrin Prime Minister on various occasions. His associates, whom Bulatovic wanted to banish, did nothing more but followed the example of their Prime Minister - and that was their only fault.
Bulatovic thoroughly prepared himself for all stages of war operations. Same as everyone else, he knew that he would have the absolute majority in the Main Board. Before the voting, he informed members of the DPS Central Committee that, being a person of moral integrity, he would resign from the leading position in the party if his course did not prevail. He left it up to Djukanovic: as he was in the minority, to either also resign from the office of the DPS Vice - President, or to let his party comrades see for themselves what a moral weakling was their high-and-mighty Prime Minister. Bulatovic tightened the noose around "his best friend's" neck that he almost strangled him. He would let him be the Prime Minister if he agreed to betray his most loyal associates and to turn the Government into a bureaucratic service of the Party, in which everyone knew who was the boss. Since the Montenegrin Prime Minister showed the first signs of disobedience, Milosevic did not publicly mention his name. He just ordered: humiliate and drive away Djukanovic! The action is in progress.
The Montenegrin President took care of staging a touching show for the public. At a press conference held after the historic session of chief socialists, he made it known that there was no disagreement between him and Djukanovic regarding the crucial issues: the only thing the Party wanted from the Prime Minister was to relieve of duty some minor players who, with their irresponsible statements, have stirred up dissension between Montenegro and Serbia, and forced the DPS to deviate from its original aspirations. It was left to the party and non-party masses to draw the conclusion for themselves that in his arrogance, Djukanovic was not willing to accept even such minor, constructive criticism.
Traditionally, the consolidation of the end-game positions is carried out far from the public eye. The whole of Montenegro is in the state of anticipation. Rumour is rife, while the state media keep silent. Stories about the strategic and tactical exploits of the warring sides reach journalists of the independent press with lightning speed. Judging by everything, Bulatovic is leading and Djukanovic has no business in the "institutions of the system". It soon turned out that the Prime Minister was not an indisputable boss even in his own Government. The first one to mustered up courage was Predrag Goranovic, Minister of Finance.
Djukanovic's decision on joining all household foreign currency deposits abroad and transferring them to a single - government's account - he rejected with an appropriate comment: "Out of the question without previous consultations with the party leadership". It was considered that the control of monetary flows was Djukanovic's strongest weapon. There are warning signs that at least one third of ministers, among whom the two Vice-Presidents of the Government, are firmly on the party line. Same as all court scandals, this one between two best friends, is also overflowing with interesting details. Some time before the Government session, his Vice-President, Miodrag Vukovic, approached the Prime Minister Djukanovic as a messenger and recommended him to agree for President Bulatovic to attend the meeting in the interest of preserving brotherhood and unity within the party. That would encourage those undecided to make up their mind. "Tell the President that he is not a member of the Cabinet and that it would be better if he did not come. It would be embarrassing if he was asked to leave the government premises during the session", - snapped back the Prime Minister, according to witnesses.
It seems rather certain now that the denouement will occur at the extraordinary session of the Montenegrin Parliament. As far as the voting is concerned, here too Djukanovic should not harbour any illusions as to the outcome. The DPS deputies are in the majority in the republican Parliament - the opposition, even if it wanted, could not be of much help. At closed party meeting it was determined whose side the majority was on. Since the main problem was resolved, it is very unlikely that anyone from the ruling party's list of elected representatives will have any doubts as to which side to chose. Voting for the one in the minority - as their party always taught them - is same as unnatural sexual promiscuity. As the assembly sessions are broadcast live by television, Djukanovic will have the opportunity to publicly explain the essence of his break up with Milosevic and Bulatovic and thus invest in his future career.
Particularly important is whether the other DPS Vice - President and President of the Assembly, Svetozar Marovic, will stay with Djukanovic to the end. Regarding his status, things are not yet clear on the front. One thing is certain: at the DPS Main Board session he was firmly on Djukanovic's side. Asked by a journalist whether Marovic had also abandoned his party function, Bulatovic answered - "I don't know". Later on, the Belgrade media reported that Marovic had changed his mind and has "placed himself at the disposal of the Party". That was here, naturally verbally, denied. Marovic is wisely keeping silent, and it is not easy to verify the facts. Even superhuman efforts on the part of the author of these lines, to reach the once rebellious leader of the Montenegrin youth, did not bear fruit. Svetozar Marovic is the best educated man in the top ranks of the DPS and he unmistakably knows that this train is going nowhere. He also has no ideological dilemma; the easiest thing for him was to get over the July fires of the couple from Tolstoi Street. His weaker points are Serbdom and Orthodoxy, but he could easily find comfort somewhere else.
If Marovic breaks and leaves, the conflict in the Montenegrin top would get somewhat different meaning. After his victory, Bulatovic would be left with only Milosevic, like a loner. In that case, as his main personnel support, he will have at hand Pavle Bulatovic, Federal Defence Minister, and - just a coincidence - Predrag Bulatovic, President of the Communal Board of the DPS for Podgorica and Head of the ruling party's Deputy Club in the republican Parliament. Behind them are nameless party masses, ready for new advances. Time will tell whether the Democratic Party of Socialists of Montenegro is a tougher ideological asset of Milosevic's policy than his own SPS. The Bulatovics', each in his own function, have duly repaid their debt on the present party battlefield. Their past service convincingly testifies to their loyalty to Milosevic's consistent and peaceful policy, which is greater than that of Milosevic himself. However, there is a slight problem: they do not enjoy much credit with the public.
The importance of this detail will soon show. Presidential elections in Montenegro are scheduled for this fall and the chief Bulatovic cannot risk the possibility of any of his followers running for office against Djukanovic. By his nomination for the President of Montenegro, Djukanovic can spoil the earlier plans of simultaneously shifting both the Serbian and the Montenegrin president to the federal level: Milosevic for the FRY President and Bulatovic for Prime Minister. Since Milosevic is obviously heading to the top of this modern federation, it is quite possible that he and Bulatovic would not, even formally, have the same rank by the fall. With Bulatovic on the republican throne and the flourishing federal state under the hand of Milosevic, the status of Montenegro according to Zabljak concept, would be more visible. Judging by experience, Montenegro can be painlessly ruled as long as it under the impression that it has not been reduced to subjection. When it comes to it senses it can be rather troublesome. Was this the way in which Djukanovic balanced the accounts when he decided to join the unequal battle with Milosevic and Bulatovic?
One should not jump to the conclusion when evaluating the glittering prospects for the Prime Minister's opposition career. Until recently he was famous for his willingness to maintain the combat readiness of the ruling party vis-a-vis opposition. Nothing of what his Government supervised and shaped would benefit citizen Djukanovic in exercising his right to fight for his ideas when he is in the minority and not in power. The new type of businessmen, who are considered his support, will have no moral problem of placing themselves in the service of the winners, if they are only allowed to freely develop their entrepreneurial skills. At the rally organized by the Democratic Movement of Montenegro, which is unknown to the public, in support of Djukanovic and Marovic, the well known advocates of the opposition to Milosevic's policy also spoke.
Djukanovic always treated them as secessionists. In the meantime, the coalition "Narodna sloga" (Popular Unity) also made a statement. "No one prevented the Montenegrin triumvirate to, at least, lay the foundations of democratic institutions. On the contrary, they took pleasure in undermining any such possibility. Instead of the promised democracy and Europe we got a mafio-cratic system which, quite predictably, is now breaking down. In this conflict, which essentially concerns the preservation of the enormous wealth accumulated on the basis of the overall tragedy, and not in the interest of either Montenegro or the FRY, the Liberal Alliance will take no sides. Neither will the Popular Party" - was the message of Perovic and Kilibarda.
Today, the Montenegrin Prime Minister is alone, out in the open: rejected by his own, unaccepted by his until recent adversaries. No one quite knows where he is heading, nor how far he will get. Only Bulatovic has completed the circle: Milosevic was his beginning and, sooner or later, will be his end.
Esad KOCAN (AIM)