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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

    MON, 14 JUL 1997 22:58:45 GMT

    Climax of the Conflict in DPS

    PRESIDENT BULATOVIC RELIEVED OF DUTY

    AIM Podgorica, 12 July, 1997

    The serious political crisis in Montenegro, caused by three-months long turmoil in the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) reached its climax on Friday, 11 July. The faction of prime minister and vice-president of the DPS, Milo Djukanovic, won a big victory at the session of the Main Board of the party against the group gathered around the president of the party and the Republic, Momir Bulatovic. Bulatovic was relieved of the duty of the president of the DPS, and Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, who was the vice-president in charge of interparty relations, was elected in his place. The Main Board with a large majority of votes elected Djukanovic to be the representative of the ruling party at the elections for president of the Republic planned to take place in December this year.

    All the decisions were reached by 62 members of the highest party office which is almost a two-thirds majority (the total number of members of the Main Board is 99). Momir Bulatovic refused to chair the session of the Main Bioard because his demand to enable journalists to be present all the time had not been met. Therefore, he and his supporters left the session, and supporters of Djukanovic continued to work as if nothing had happened.

    Of course, it was not the question "for" or "against" the presence of the public at the session of the Main Board, that divided the DPS. It was evident that Bulatovic insisted on the presence of the journalists in order to, like in the previous sessions, obstruct the work of this office and show to the public that it is powerless to resolve the party problems. In this way he wished to prove that (his) demand to have the convention decide about his conflict with three vice-presidents was justified. The other side, however, was nobody's fool and calmly watched the former president with his supporters walk out of the hall where the Main Board sat, and continued work.

    At separate press conferences that leaders of both factions held afterwards, the conclusion was confirmed that the until recently united winning team of the DPS would never again be found on the same side of the field. Bulatovic scheduled the convention of the DPS for 23 August in Podgorica, and nominated presidents of seven municipal committees which had supported his demand for scheduling the "emergency" convention immediately in the committee for its preparation. He denied legality of the other side claiming that the Main Board could work only if the president of the party chaired it.

    Milica Pejanovic-Djurisic, however, established that, according to the Statute, all decisions reached by the Main Board were undoubted, and especially that their legitimacy was not at all questionable. "What else could we have done with the man who is continuously obstructing work of the highest party offices", was the question with which the new party president, in fact, explained reasons for the vote of inconfidence to her predecessor at the post. "Nothing dramatic has happened in Montenegro. A legitimate party office has reached a legitimate decision and there is no reason for alarm and division among the people", said Svetozar Marovic. The most cynical of all was the leader of the victorious faction Milo Djukanovic who said: "The DPS had a problem, and today at the session of the Main Board it was resolved".

    It seems, however, that the "problem" is only partly resolved. Superiority of Djukanovic's faction in the highest state and party offices has unambiguously been established. Last week at the session of the assembly of Montenegro, Bulatovic's candidate for the judge of the Constitutional Court of Montenegro failed to be elected, which was interpreted as an indication of the current rating of the President of the Republic in Montenegrin parliament. But there can be no doubt that Momir Bulatovic is still a very influential political personage and that he has no intention to easily hoist a white flag. Decisions of the Main Board of the DPS significantly reorchastrated the political picture of Montenegro, and this action will undoubtedly reflect on all levels - the party, the Republic, and the federal state.

    There can be no doubt either that Momir Bultovic will do everything possible to maintain power in the DPS. But if he fails, it is obviously more likely to expect that a new party will be founded (with the main slogan "FRY at all costs", and with Slobodan Milosevic as its political patron), than that Bulatovic will withdraw from the scene. It is assessed that the former president of the DPS would run in the presidential elections as an independent candidate, counting on all "pro-Serb" voters in the Republic. It might also happen that the legal dispute about "ownership" of the DPS will last until December and that Momir Bulatovic will nominally be the presidential candidate of this party.

    The possibility that two parallel conventions of the ruling party will be held also seems realistic. Seven municipal boards of the DPS supported Bulatovic's demand for urgent convening of the highest party office and they will, it is quite certain, schedule their gathering for 23 August in Podgorica. The other side does not deny the need for convening the convention. Svetozar Marovic said about it: "There cannot be two conventions of the DPS. There can be only one legal convention of our party - the one convened according to criteria and with the objectives determined by the Main Board".

    Everything is, therefore, pointing out that the split of the party which has ruled Montenegro absolutely and undemocratically for seven years, is definite. Local political analysts say that early elections in Montenegro are also inevitable. It is generally believed that true multiparty life in Montenegro will begin only after that, and that it will truly begin to at least resemble a parliamentary democracy. Because neither of the factions of the split DPS is believed to be powerful enough to win again more than 50 per cent of the seats in the parliament. This would finally make the Montenegrin authorities controlled, state offices and media would lose their (single) party nature... Briefly, conditions would be created for objective democratization of the Montenegrin political ambience.

    If in the next few months Bulatovic's defeat turns out to be definite, and Djukanovic's conception becomes predominant, relations between Podgorica and Belgrade cannot remain the same either. Not only because of personal intolerance between the Montenegrin prime minister and the President of Serbia, but rather because of Djukanovic's, as it seems, not just verbal intention to limit Milosevic's influence solely to the constitutionally prescribed limits. It is broadly believed that treading on Milosevic's toes could seriously jeopardize not only cooperation of coalition partners - the SPS and the DPS, but even relations between Montenegro and Serbia which from the establishment of the FRY practically rely on the relations of the two ruling parties.

    The first test how the coalition of the Serbian and the Montenegrin Socialists operates will happen in the next two weeks. The federal parliament is expected to determine candidates on 15 July and elect one of them for president of the FRY on 23 July. An indicator of the success of the cooperation will not be just the election of the leader because that seems to be unquestionable, but also the number of votes he will get. Conditionally speaking the "new" leading team of the DPS has not questioned any of the strategic commitments the party has been founded on for almost a decade. The only thing that was different was that the tone in which Pejanovic-Durisic, Marovic and Djukanovic talked about their long-lasting coalition partners, especially former political "guru" Slobodan Milosevic, was evidently reserved. Perhaps this frigidity could be an additional cause of an even hotter political summer '97 in Montenegro.

    Darko SUKOVIC (AIM Podgorica)