FRI, 23 JAN 1998 21:55:33 GMT
AIM Belgrade, 19 January, 1998
When shooting and explosions died down in the streets of Podgorica, when the wind dispersed the tear gas, and the police did the same with the supporters of Momir Bulatovic, and when inauguration of Milo Djukanovic was completed, Serbia was, mildly speaking - overwhelmed by total confusion.
The ruling Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and its main ally the Yugoslav Left (JUL), or rather the party and state officials of the left block have still not made their stand public: at least not consistently. This is especially strange because from among their ranks, for months, accusations have been arriving against Djukanovic and his part of the Democratic party of Socialists (DPS) "for yet unseen smuggling and corruption, police dictatorship, secessionism, separatism, destruction of Yugoslavia, Ustashe policy, Islamic fundamentalism, serving the interests of foreign power wielders"...
For the time being, the whole affair - as tradition dictates - has been handed over to the regime controlled media. But, they too, seem somewhat out of shape: the harangue of Djukanovic and his supporters takes the form of reports of correspondents from Montenegro, lamentation of Bulatovic and his followers, statements of phantom organizations such as the Yugoslav Patriotic Alliance...
Everything that has been said is simply impossible to retell - from exaggeration of the ten odd thousand Bulatovic's demonstrators to eighty thousand, through the discovery of "foreigners" in uniforms of Montenegrin police (they answered their mobile phones by saying "pronto") all the way to pathetic conclusions that "the whole Montenegro is arrested"... However, they did not go further than "wailing". Not a single personage of "integrity" and a post of importance in the authorities has stepped out and clearly determined the direction of action to be taken by the said media.
What seems to be the problem? At the moment there are three explanations in circulation. According to the first one, pressure exerted by the international community - primarily the USA - on the president of FR Yugoslavia and SPS Slobodan Milosevic is extremely high. After the declaration of the American envoy Robert Gelbard - "I consider Bulatovic together with his associates responsible for the unprecedented illegal behavior, and I also consider president Milosevic responsible because he supported these demonstrations and because he has not restrained his colleague Bulatovic" - any direct attack by anybody from the Serbian authorities against Djukanovic would just additionally stress that the Serbian regime caused the conflict in Montenegro and further strain relations of Belgrade with the relevant parts of the international community.
The second explanation relies on the fact that there is no necessary unity at Milosevic's "court" for a showdown with Djukanovic. More precisely - that there is a hardcore and the moderate faction and a conflict between them. It is hard to tell who belongs in which. Allegedly, JUL and members of the SPS close to Mirjana Markovic are in favour of the policy of a firm hand and radical solutions, while their hidden opponents are against destruction of any possibility for a future compromise. In such a situation, it is claimed, Milosevic has not yet reached a definite solution, so everyone is avoiding to stick one's neck out. The third explanation can be found in the true nature of the federal state and its only institution which is still to a certain extent operational - the Army of Yugoslavia.
After the resolution of the Montenegrin assembly not to recognize decisions of the federal judiciary concerning the just completed presidential elections over there, the only action that FR Yugoslavia could take in favour of Bulatovic is the use of the army force. Such a move would not only have far-reaching and unpredictable consequences for the two-member federal community, but it would transform the Army of Yugoslavia into a mere party police the establishment of which would have nothing to hope for in the future. It seems that this moved the otherwise endlessly inert and colourless federal prime minister Radoje Kontic to wheedle a permit out of Milosevic to try to mediate between Djukanovic and Bulatovic, but also the military leadership to send signals on several occasions that it did not intend to interfere in political settling of accounts. Since nobody wishes to be accused that by calling the federal administration to account for inactivity he actually worked in favour of possible dissolution of FR Yugoslavia, direct reactions failed to come.
Nevertheless, Montenegro is not Slovenia. In any case, these are just speculations. It is a fact that Djukanovic was inaugurated, so that all those from Serbia who were invited to attend the inauguration but failed to come, can do him no harm. And another thing: Djukanovic is much less in the way of Milosevic as the president of Montenegro than as a person who can offer a constructive way out of the profound state crisis. Although the new Montenegrin leadership will use everything that can affect the policy of FR Yugoslavia (federal government, assembly, Supreme Defence Council), due to distribution of forces in Serbia (nobody has the majority in the Assembly) the thing that is much more dangerous for this regime is the model of new political style coming from Podgorica. How important that is is shown by the attempt of Serbian quasi-opposition to use the inauguration in Cetinje for their own benefit: in one place, Djukanovic gathered all the party leaders - from the bitterly quarrelled leaders of the former coalition Together (Vuk Draskovic, Zoran Djindjic, Vesna Pesic) to the most important Milosevic's hanger-on - Vojislav Seselj.
Nevertheless, although the regime in Belgrade is formally silent about the question of the latest developments in Montenegro, on no account should anyone believe that it has said its last word. Intrigues, putting spurs in Djukanovic's wheels, blockade and making his life miserable, will most probably continue until Milosevic meets the destiny of Bulatovic.
After the presidential elections in Montenegro, there were speculations that Milosevic will not recognize Djukanovic's coming to power not even at the cost of introduction of the state of emergency. Those who advocated this view even found a "legal" argument for it. Introducing of state of emergency is in the competence of the Federal Assembly. But, since the Chamber of the Republics has not been constituted, the Constitution of FR Yugoslavia would be interpreted in such a manner that it was impossible for the parliamebnt to meet. In such a situation, the federal government has the right to introduce state of emergency. The formal cause could be found in significant disorders, paralysis of Montenegrin authorities, possible bloodshed. Confirmation that this was being prepared were found in the fact that Bulatovic and his followers organized a "magnificient people's gathering" in Podgorica on 12 January - three days before Djukanovic's inauguration - but also in the activities of the federal court which started to nullify decisions of the Montenegrin authorities which had carried out the presidential elections. The role of the "protector" of the legal system, peace and order would have been given to the Army of Yugoslavia. In this context, the session of the Supreme Defence Council seemed ominous just a couple of days before the announced gathering in Podgorica. Although denied afterwards, there are serious allegations that Bulatovic claimed at the session that he would not be able to control the massive "people's movement" and that after Djukanovic's inauguration riots of great proportion might easily spark off. That is why, it seems, the possibility of introduction of state of emergency was consisdered. Allegedly, along with Pavle Bulatovic, federal defence minister, Milosevic himself was in favour of such a resolution of the conflict. Against it were those who would have been, along with Momir Bulatovic, the most exposed - federal prime minister Radoje Kontic and head of the General Staff of the Army of Yugoslavia - Momcilo Perisic. Thanks to that, it is stated, no decision was reached. Did everything actually happen like this or in any other way, perhaps we will some day learn from memoirs of some of the participants. It is evident that Bulatovic has got involved in his adventure with the demonstrations without the crucial support from Belgrade and that from the very beginning it seemed almost certain that it would not succeed. Congratulations of general Perisic to Djukanovic and the attempt of sensible behavior of Radoje Kontic might be a testimony that somebody has learnt something in all this time.