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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

    WED, 21 JAN 1998 21:53:17 GMT

    After Debacle of the Protests and Presidential Inauguration

    Djukanovic Gaining in Strength, Bulatovic Knocked Down

    AIM Podgorica, 19 January, 1998

    Until last Thursday, Momir Bulatovic liked to stress, with pride or warning, depending on the context, that he was the leader of the most powerful political party in Montenegro. Until midnight on 14 January, he was the president of the Republic. It is quite certain that he had a significant stronghold among the ranks of the police and the army, which he also often underlined, estimating that at least 80 per cent of the men in uniform supported him. All that was a firm foundation on which Bulatovic could construct a strategy for a possible victory in spring presidential elections. But, after the debacle of his demonstrations and the unsuccessful attempt of a coup d'etat, Momir Bulatovic seems to have lost everything. He is neither the president of the state, nor the leader of the most powerful party, and he has brutally turned the army against himself, but especially the Montenegrin police. In just a few hours, Bulatovic has gambled everything away and remained alone. Even his closest associates have started to leave him (head of his office and his spokesman resigned), members of his party who were loyal to him are dropping out, the international community characterised him as a thief and a lier - the only misfortune that can still befall him is that his main patron Slobodan Milosevic might turn his back on him.

    On the other hand, Milo Djukanovic is rubbing his hands with satisfaction. Institutions of the system have been defended without a single victim, his inauguration passed in a festive and solemn atmosphere, the federal prime minister and the head of the General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia have offered him their support, and so did the Church, and, above all and for a Balkan leader unusually openly - the international community. For a long time, ever since last summer when his split with the former president was made public, Djukanovic seemed to be unable to find the best way to resolve the inconvenience called Momir Bulatovic. Not even television, not even the party leadership, not even the state administration were of any help - at the presidential elections only a miracle saved Djukanovic from defeat already in the first round. Not even this presidential victory affected decline of popularity of Momir Bulatovic. Very skillfully for the local circumstances, Bulatovic had succeeded in keeping up the tension and questioning regularity of presidential elections. Unofficially, Djukanovic sometimes complained that he had no clue for Bulatovic. Global circumstances, primarily the economic collapse and the quickly melting state budget worked in favour of Bulatovic. Djukanovic and his supporters feared spring - social unrest and parliamentary elections. A possible defeat in them would completely nullify the victory in the recent presidential competition. But, then Bulatovic himself decided to "help" him. Everything he did during three days of last week returned to him like a boomerang and simply knocked him down, with hardly any prospect to recover so soon.

    In this atmosphere, on the one hand of buoyancy and optimism of the reform group, and of depression and fear of Bulatovic's followers, the first days are passing after Montenegro has got its new president. Friday was the first work day for Djukanovic at his new post, and on Saturday already he received leaders of parliamentary parties as part of the consultations for nomination of the new candidate for prime minister. Even before these talks began, it had been known that the candidate of president Djukanovic would be the former minister of internal affairs, Filip Vujanovic, who is with no doubt in the structure of current authorities and the ruling party, the most complete personality and the best choice for the post.

    As concerning the government, it will be multi-partisan and transitional until completion of the forthcoming parliamentary elections. Kilibarda's Nationalists and candidates of parties of minority nations will become members of the cabinet, while Bulatovic's party and Perovic's Liberals will remain aside from these combinations. The reason for the former is that they recognized neither the president, nor the candidate for prime minister, and therefrom the government itself, while the Liberals wish to enter a cabinet only on the basis of election results, and not as they say, on the basis of "political trading".

    The current authorities are very busy in another sense as well. The police is arresting and questioning protagonists of Bulatovic's demonstrations. Some have already been put into custody and criminal charges raised against them. For the public certainly the most attractive is the case of former editor of Television Montenegro Emilo Labudovic who crowned his long service in Bulatovic's patriotic journalism by firing a gun at police forces during the mentioned attack at the building of the republican government. According to the assessment of connoisseurs of the law, Labudovic will find it hard to get away without a long sentence in jail. A similar destiny could befall a number of known businessmen from Podgorica and "strong guys" because the bubble of the conspiracy has burst and the number of the indicted is growing.

    What will happen to the organizers and Bulatovic himself is for the time being quite uncertain. The state prosecutor of Montenegro declared that he was collecting evidence and that he would soon inform the public about the results. It depends on his investigation whether the leadership of the party of the recent Montenegrin president will end up in jail. Every evening, state television which is controlled by Djukanovic is carrying various contributions which are preparing the ground in the public for the arrest of Bulatovic himself. Media are thundering about "violent demonstrations", and president Djukanovic has personally defined Bulatovic's group as "terrorists".

    The circle around the former head of the state is gradually narrowing, so that it will depend only on the assessment of the leadership of the ruling party whether a price will be put on Bulatovic's "head". If approval arrives from that level, that is, if the current president and his associates assess that it is more useful to keep Bulatovic in jail than at large, he will certainly be arrested.

    Djukanovic was already given support both from within and from without for such a move. He need not worry any more even what the federal chief Slobodan Milosevic will say. According to what things look like from Podgorica, one tends to assume that Milosevic is groggy after the catastrophe of his commissioner in Montenegro. As Sky News described it, it was the greatest Slobodan Milosevic's loss in a single day - he was left without both Vukovar and Podgorica. It could also be added that the defeat in Montenegro is much more painful for him. Now it has become clear that consequences of Djukanovic's victory for the dictator from Dedinje could reach far. The most trustworthy cadres are starting to turn their backs on him. Federal prime minister Kontic is already much closer to Djukanovic, and head of the general Staff Perisic is also showing the same tendency. The Church had already been against Milosevic, and now it has just confirmed its stand. It seems that the noose is tightening around the neck of the president of Serbian-Montenegrin federation. Of course, the experience teaches that he should never be written off in advance, although the leader of Serbian Democrats, Zoran Djindjic has also announced that this will be the last year of Milosevic's rule. Instead of such, nevertheless premature assessment, it is more realistic to say that this will certainly be the most dubious year in his political career. The number of his enemies, both domestic and foreign, is growing. He has been left without Montenegro, without the Republic of Srpska, with enormous problems in Serbia, with Kosovo, with sanctions of the international community - can a man survive all that?! When Milosevic is concerned, anything is possible.

    Zeljko Ivanovic

    (AIM Podgorica)