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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, 27 MAY 1997 20:47:40 GMT

    Who Will Be the President of Montenegro


    AIM Podgprica, 22 May, 1997

    The conflict which is shaking the top of the Montenegrin ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the state authorities since the end of March, seems to have definitely exceeded the limits within which a compromise would be possible. Although the possibility of agreement in declarations of the main actors of the conflict is still occasionally mentioned out of courtesy, it is becoming more and more evident that the end of the battle will also mark the end of the political career of the one who will be defeated.

    Since about ten days ago, the conflict took the form of the race for nomination for president, since the ruling party can put up only one candidate. When on 11 July, the Main Board of the DPS decides whether it will once more nominate Momir Bulatovic for the president of the Republic, or place its confidence in Milo Djukanovic, it will exactly be known who the winner of the current conflict in the ruling party is.

    Connoisseurs of relations within the DPS claim that at this moment 57 to 60 members of the Main Board and 12 members of the Executive Board are in favour of Milo Djukanovic and Svetozar Marovic.The remaining forty odd members of the Main Board and six of the Executive Board have allegedly remained devoted to the President of the Republic and the DPS. If the relation of forces in these two highest party bodies remains unchanged, the Prime Minister will "run in the finals" for the nomination as the distinct favourite.

    Probably being aware that he had lost the majority in the Main Board of his party, President Bulatovic started on a tour of municipal branches of the DPS, in order to win their support. He first visited the largest organization of his party, the one in Podgorica, where unanimous support was expressed, but - as it was officially stated later on - not for his nomination, but for his report on the current situation and future development of the DPS. The nomination followed at the session of the party organization in Pljevlje, the northernmost town in Montenegro, where Momir Bulatovic was officially and "unanimously" nominated to be the candidate of the ruling party in the elections for President of Montenegro next autumn. According to a similar scenario, Bulatovic's nomination was also supported by DPS members in Berane.

    Between Pljevlje and Berane, the Montenegrin President visited Bijelo Polje. Curiously enough, his candidacy for president was not confirmed yet, although, as witnesses claim, the organizer made special effort to provide majority of Bulatovic's supporters at the gathering. Information leaked that Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, vice-president and powerful member of the DPS, had phoned Bulatovic just before the meeting and asked him to abstain from another "self-nomination". But, explanation for this unexpected abstention could also be found in the fact that one of the present members of the DPS nominated Svetozar Marovic to be the candidate. Allegedly, Bulatovic then marked this proposal as contrary to decisions of the DPS Main Board, and just a few minutes before that he had passed over in silence the demand that he be the candidate for the post. Rumour goes that those present laughed at such "principled" stand of the President, so the final result of both candidacies was - null and void.

    Djukanovic's supporters did not remain idle, either. "Responses" arrived from Niksic and Cetinje, two very firm strongholds of the Prime Minister. Municipal boards in these cities officially nominated both Milo Djukanovic and Svetozar Marovic for presidential candidates. That is how their names got on the list of claimants of party nomination for the head of the state. It is quite certain that the list will be supplemented by at least another name, that of the already mentioned vice-president of the ruling party - Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic.

    That is how, instead of "putting on an act" of pluralism, the DPS will for the first time have the opportunity to really come up against its charms. At this moment it seems completely improbable that top party echelons will reach an undivided stand concerning the candidate of the DPS for the president of the Republic. When the "joint list" is presented to the Main Board, the relation of forces between the two "warring" parties will be decisive. It has already been said that Djukanovic has much better chances at the moment, but the possibility of a complete change cannot be eliminated either. After all, just a month and a half ago, the Prime Minister's prospects appeared quite bleak. There are also indications that Marovic and Djukanovic have not agreed yet which one of them will run for the head of the state. Allegedly, both would like the other to be the one. Assessments of the analysts are that only Djukanovic can count with certainty on winning the race with Bulatovic within the ruling party. This, however, opens the question of the other posts. It is believed that the DPS does not have an even approximately as good replacement for the post of the prime minister. Apart from that, Marovic is considered to be a conformist whom the post of the chairman of the assembly suits just fine.

    Perhaps it is too early for forecasts of this kind, but the impression is that Momir Bulatovic will run for the president of the Republic even if he fails to ensure support of the majority of the party he is at the head of. The fact that he has lost support of the highest bodies in his own party does not at all mean that the President has completely lost influence in its "basis". In some municipal boards he probably enjoys exceptionally strong support. His chances in the DPS are evaluated to amount to more than 40 per cent. Bulatovic certainly expects support of the so-called "pro-Serb" voters, outside the DPS. And with such prospects, it is worthwhile to enter the race. Brutal accusations of his main rival also testify how resolute the President of the Republic is to maintain the state office and power in the party. The President accuses the Prime Minister for being against Yugoslavia, for crime, for forcing development of the south of the Republuc at the expense of the northern region...

    Denouement of the conflict in the DPS will show whether Bulatovic has gained more than he had lost with this style of fighting. Failure in the attempts to assume control over the Montenegrin State Security Service revealed weakening of his power in the party and the state, and at the same time, deprived him of one of the important pillars in the struggle for the final election result. The arsenal of accusations the President resorted to will provide his rivals with good reason and a pretext, if they win, for not treating the defeated one with very fine manners. Unformal information confirm that, because of his behavior, a "sanction" has already been determined for Bulatovic: if he "falls", he will be eliminated from politics. There is no doubt that, if he wins, the President of the Republic will not have any mercy for his opponents either.

    The forthcoming finals in the nomination of the candidates for the head of the state will at the same time be the denouement of the conflict in the Montenegrin ruling party. The winner will undoubtedly have power in the party and the post of the president of the Republic. The opposition can do nothing but lament and contemplate about what has brought about the fact that it is the weakest ever since its foundation at the moment of the first big crisis of the authorities. This autumn, like in the previous presidential elections in 1992, main rivals will be two representatives of the ruling party. The only open question is whether Momir Bulatovic will this time be what Branko Kostic had been at the time - the defeated independent candidate. And Milo Djukanovic what Bulatovic used to be then - the winning trump card of the DPS.

    Darko SUKOVIC

    (AIM Podgorica)