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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

    FRI, 14 NOV 1997 23:38:05 GMT

    Montenegrin Elections - Past and Future

    HOW TO PREVENT THEFT

    AIM Podgorica, 12 November, 1997

    "Theft" is the most frequently used word at the current, by now already marathon session of Montenegrin parliament (today is the eighth day of the debate). Members of the group of deputies of Momir Bulatovic characterized the just past presidential elections with this term, while the opposition used this work to describe all the previous pronouncing of the will of the citizens. Dragan Soc, deputy of the coalition National Harmony, declared that in fact, "the latest presidential elections were a symphony in comparison with all the previous ones". Despite the effort of the group of the by now already departing Momir Bulatovic to connect all possible election machinations with the past voting, what actually happened is that the entire dirty laundry in all the former elections in the short history of Montenegring multi-partism was brought out in the open.

    In the election campaign already, in the clash between the two until then unquestioned masters of Montenegro, Bulatovic and Djukanovic, it became clear that the problem of the one and the other was that they knew each other too well. Accusations and suspicion whenever the election process was mentioned created the impression that the main jobs in these elections would again be done behind the scene. The only question was - who would be the actors? That is why back in July Predrag Bulatovic, vice-president of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) headed by the man who has the same family name, lamented that the computing centre of the government of Montenegro which was in charge of processiong election results "remained in the hands of Milo Djukanovic". He also expressed fear of the possibility of "designing of election results via this centre".

    "Now that we can see what is happening in the clash of two groups which used to belong or still belong to the same structure of authorities, one does not need a lively imagination to reach the conclusion what these authorities did to the opposition while they were united", says Dragan Soc, deputy of the National Party. He claims that all former elections in Montenegro were unfair, undemocratic and unfree, which means that in all of them, as Bulatovic's DPS is persistently repeating now "the will of the citizens was changed by theft".

    Mentioned Predrag Bulatovic is not willing to give statements on the topic of former election machinations - only about the latest he says that there have been thefts. To the remark that all irregularities which accompanied the past presidential elections had not bothered them while the DPS was united and while it was winning, Bulatovic responds that he has never had anything to do with election thefts. Nevertheless, in the assembly debate Predrag Bulatovic revealed certain details which reflected the previous phase of the united, absolutistic DPS. He first admitted that on the eve of the last years's parliamentary elections, the election law was hastily amended, and cut Montenegro which had previously been a single electoral district, into 11 of them, which enabled the ruling party to win absolute power again. "The present Television has outshone the best days of the united DPS", declared Bulatovivc, reflecting at the same time the seven-year period of "independence and professionalism" of the most powerful media. He went the furthest when he admitted that the DPS had had several phases of operation and that in one of them it even "distributed arms to party members".

    What the losers in the presidential elections are mostly pointing their fingers at now and which is the crucial evidence of the "election theft" is the electoral register. Bulatovic's supporters state that between the two election rounds, numerous new voters were registered contrary to the law, and that on the other hand, their sympathizers and members were deleted from the register. Djukanovic's team replies that both candidates had their representatives at the polling stations and that they all signed reports about the counted votes and by doing it recognized regularity of the elections. There was no demand to repeat the elections in a single place - this is the main argument of the defence of the winner Djukanovic.

    The opposition responded to this dispute of the two conflicting factions of the DPS by reminding of its status in all the previous elections. Their representatives were constantly harassed ever since 1990, they were not able to participate in counting the ballots, in some places they were even physically attacked, while all the demands for correcting the electoral register were calmly rejected.

    "These presidential elections were a step ahead in relation to the previous ones, although they too showed that we still have no elements which correspond to the standards of the developed world", Dragan Soc assesses and adds: "What members of the defeated team of Momir Bulatovic are stating also means admission that in all the previous elections, especially the parliamentary ones, votes had been stolen by the very same ones who are now complaining about the theft".

    When the discussion about this item on the agenda at the current parliamentary session ends and when majority of deputies reject the resolution of Momir Bulatovic about nullification of the recent presidential elections which has already become become quite certain, turn will come for the discussion about the set of laws which should make the future elections in Montenegro truly democratic. Based on the agreement between the democratic opposition, the government and Djukanovic's DPS, elaboration of drafts of these key laws was initiated, from the one which regulates the work of state media, the election law, all the way to the law on financing political parties, so that finally, in the middle of next year, the first, for all participants in the race, equal and fair elections can be scheduled. Drafts of these laws are promising that by their adoption, Montenegro will make a large democratic step forward. In the future, as it is stated in the drafts of these laws, it will be impossible to nominate editors-in-chief of state media without approval of all relevant political parties, that is, the opposition inclusive, and Montenegro will become again a single electoral district, and the proportionate system will be reintroduced, while the enormous property of the former league of communists which was automatically and illegally inherited and used solely by the DPS, will now be split among all the parliamentary political parties.

    And as concerning the electoral register, it will be put under control. The draft law prescribes that it will be electronic and accessible to all the political parties and citizens, so that they will be able to intervene in time and eliminate irregularities. All this will, hopefully, make it possible in ll the future elections in Montenegro, for all the defeated to be able to be angry only - with themselves.

    Nebojsa Redzic

    AIM Podgorica