AIM: start

SUN, 02 SEP 2001 22:14:04 GMT

Montenegro Resolving its Status

The Referendum in a Party Sandwich

Pro-Montenegrin and pro-Yugoslav parties are still divided regarding the resolution of the status of Montenegro, although the deadline set for the holding of the referendum (which the Liberal Alliance agreed on with the Democratic Party of Socialist and Social Democratic Party in exchange for its support in the minority Government) is drawing close.

AIM Podgorica, August 18, 2001

Will the citizens of Montenegro get a chance in the first months next year to choose the status of Montenegro or not, is the question because of which its leading parties are again (for God knows which time) in a state of alert. The Liberal Alliance set off the alarm requesting the soonest possible holding of the extraordinary session of the Republican Parliament. The deputies would have a task of selecting a commission for the adoption of the Law on Referendum which would decide whether Montenegro would remain stuck in a joint state with Serbia or, after full eight decades, renew its centuries-old state autonomy.

Two reasons have prompted the Liberals to ask for an extraordinary session of Parliament. The first was their assessment that Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialist was not over-interested in the preparations of the referendum, although that was a condition under which the Liberals gave their support to the minority Government of Djukanovic's Socialists and Social-Democratic Party. Also, they thought that all parties would show their true face at that session: "whether they are willing to resolve the political crisis in Montenegro by peaceful and democratic means and quickly".

The DPS and SDP immediately supported the Liberals' initiative so that it seems that the deputies will get together already at the beginning of September. However, judging by all they will come to the Parliament House armed with opposed stands and unwilling to find a common language.

A message has already come from the Socialist National Party, the strongest opposition party that it would not participate in the parliamentary working group for the drafting of the new Law on Referendum on the Status of Montenegro.

Incidentally, these days, together with the Democratic Opposition of Serbia, the SNP is busy elaborating a platform on the reorganisation of Serbian-Montenegrin relations. High SNP official Zoran Zizic generously announced that they would send this platform even to the Montenegrin Government. This attempt of the Serbian authorities at shaping the destiny of Montenegro, together with the Montenegrin opposition, will most probably go down in history as a political precedent. For pro-Montenegrin forces its is only an additional proof that even after Milosevic, there is nothing left for Montenegro in FRY.

The Serbian National Party, which has only three deputies in Parliament, has put an ultimatum: early parliamentary and presidential elections preceded by the formation of a concentration Government. According to the President of the Serbian National Party, Bozidar Bojovic the adoption of the new Law on Referendum "represents an attempt at Montenegro's violent secession from Serbia, i.e. the intention of current authorities to carry out their separatist project with the assistance of the Liberal Alliance. The way out of the present crisis is in putting up a concentration Government which would prepare new democratic laws. Only then, under democratic conditions, new elections could be held and even a referendum organised, if need be", said Bojovic.

The Popular Party, which is evidently returning to its original nationalistic principles from the war years, also supported the idea on the formation of a concentration Government. "The ruling coalition (DPS, LSCG, SDP) can call a referendum and does not need the opposition for something like that. However, the Popular Party thinks that it is first necessary to create an atmosphere for holding the referendum and ensure full control of all interested political factors over the referendum process. That is only possible by forming a concentration Government", said Bojan Vuksanovic, spokesman for the Popular Party.

What are the chances for the idea of the Popular and Serbian National Party on concentration Government to get a green light of the pro-Montenegrin bloc? The LSCG and SDP made it clear that they were against such a Government. The DPS did not make its stand known, but the agreement it made with the Liberals on the minority Government implies that the strongest ruling party would not make such an arrangement with the pro-Yugoslav parties. However, the announced talk of DPS President Milo Djukanovic and SNP President Predrag Bulatovic (which is their first official meeting since the 1997 break-up of the integral DPS) might fundamentally change things.

The public was genuinely surprised by this sudden invitation for talks, which are scheduled for August 20, which provoked different party reactions. The LSCG deputy, Slavko Perovic expressed his fears that the discussion between Djukanovic and Bulatovic might "result in the abandoning of the project of independent and internationally recognised state of Montenegro" so that Montenegro might end up in a different political tentative solution which would be called FRY or something similar. "I assume that we could speak about a concentration Government. But, that would mean cheating on the electorate and betraying the pre-election promises. In that way we would be entering something that suits both groups - a negotiating phase and a stalling game", said the LSCG official.

The SDP Vice-President, Miodrag Ilickov expressed his hope that the outcome of these talks between two party Presidents would be "positive for Montenegro", but warned: "It seems to me that all these ten past years those from Belgrade and advocates of such opinions (Zoran Zizic and Predrag Bulatovic) tried to turn all of us in Montenegro into homeless people".

"The Democratic Party of Socialists has no intention of giving up on the idea of the referendum on the state-legal status of Montenegro, nor its support for the independent and internationally recognised Montenegro" categorically explained Igor Luksic, spokesman for the DPS at the last week's press conference. Luksic clarified that according to the DPS, it was in the interest of citizens to round off the independence formally rather than to return any jurisdiction of the state of Montenegro under the wing of some new Yugoslavia. Regarding the pro-Yugoslav, parties from the coalition For Yugoslavia (the Socialist National Party-SNP, the Popular Party-NP and the Serbian National Party - SNS), Luksic said that it was up to them to decide whether interests of Montenegro were above party interests or, whether they would provoke a crisis as a model of political profiteering.

The DPS is willing to make an alliance with the SNP if this party decides to support the independent and internationally recognised Montenegro which will be closer to European integrations. Everything is possible - even for Predrag Bulatovic's Socialists, who have been empassioned defenders of FRY and Slobodan Milosevic for years, to make a Copernican shift and turn to interests of Montenegro and its modern development concept. This is, however, very unlikely. In any case, the talk between Djukanovic and Bulatovic will solve this enigma too.

For the time being, it is obvious that pro-Montenegrin and pro-Yugoslav parties are still divided regarding the resolution of the status of Montenegro although the deadline set for the holding of the referendum (which the Liberal Alliance agreed on with the Democratic Party of Socialist and Social Democratic Party in exchange for its support in the minority Government) is drawing close.