AIM: start

FRI, 28 SEP 2001 18:54:11 GMT

Is the Djukanovic-Bulatovic Agreement in Sight?

All-Party Government?

It is obvious that the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Socialist People's Party (SNP) will soon reach an agreement. No one, however, knows whether this means that Montenegro will organize a referendum, or postpone it indefinitely.

AIM Podgorica, September 28, 2001

The Liberal Alliance of Montenegro's initiative to form a parliamentary committee charged with preparing a referendum came to naught -- it was politely rejected by the DPS in form of a motion to adjourn the Legislature for two weeks. Igor Luksic, the DPS spokesman, justified the majority decision by stating an "impression" that opposition leaders were prepared "to be active participants in a referendum on Montenegro's status, on certain conditions." Earlier, the pro-Yugoslav coalition fiercely responded to the Liberals' initiative, accusing them of endangering Montenegro's stability by gambling on unilateral, undemocratic moves.

If the unwillingness of the Together for Yugoslavia coalition to join the doomed work task entrusted with preparing the referendum legislation became quite obvious during the brief debate in the Legislature, the belief, however, that some coalition members could be coaxed to participate in the referendum is certainly not based on an "impression." The compromise, it is clear, was hammered out during the talks between Montenegrin President and DPS leader Milo Djukanovic and the opposition leaders Predrag Bulatovic, Dragan Soc, and Bozidar Bojovic. The two weeks of adjournment will be used to draft a document acceptable to all the parties represented in the Legislature, whereas the DPS has undertaken to come up with a magic formula against the boycott of the popular vote.

In case this complex operation turns out to be a success, before the end of September Montenegro will obtain a new, major agreement much like the one of four years ago, following the split of the then unified Democratic Party of Socialists -- that will pave the way out of the current stalemate. The document should contain two key provisions: an agreement to form an all-party government, and a decision to hold the referendum. Further, the international community should be present not as a mere witness. The role of foreign factors in pressing for the formation of an all-party government, according to well-informed sources, may be described as quite major, which will reflect on the obligations for everyone involved to honor the agreement. "We are all fed up with wheeling and dealing; it's time to act," said one ruling coalition official.

On both sides, however, there is opposition to forming a broad coalition government. The Social Democratic Party, a smaller partner in the ruling team, and the Liberals, who support the current minority cabinet of Filip Vujanovic, are adamantly againt the plan. "The concept of an all-party government spells trouble; it means that no referendum will be held in Montenegro, and that it will not be an independent state," says pessimistically the Liberals' leader, Miodrag Zivkovic. The Social Democrats' vice president, Ranko Krivokapic, believes that an all-party government will destroy the government's authority, and points out that proven perpetrators of election frauds will be appointed to safeguard the plebiscite's results. "How can the referendum be truly democratic, if the People's Socialists' vice president, Zoran Zizic -- who was in charge of the federal elections in Montenegro when even DOS claimed its votes were stolen enters Montenegro's government?" Krivokapic asked.

The DPS, needless to say, is quite aware that without the Social Democrats and the Liberals an all-party government will not hold. Still, hopes are placed in the former, who over the past four years proved Djukanovic's most trusted allies. The Social Democrats' president, Zarko Rakcevic, did not rule out the possibility of an all-party government, following his last week's talks with the Montenegrin president, but insisted on a very specific agreement concerning the referendum and its monitoring. He tied the Social Democrats' further support to the exact setting of the referendum's date, the precise phrasing of the referrendum question ("Are you in favor of a sovereign, internationally recognized Republic of Montenegro?"), and an ironclad guarantee by all the signatories that they will not boycott the vote and that they will recognize the referendum's results. He further demanded that all this should be vouchsafed by the international community as well. Such conditions, he hinted, might be acceptable even to the Liberal Alliance.

In the pro-Yugoslav bloc, it is the Serb People's Party that could create problems. Its president, Bozidar Bojovic, would join the all-party government only if it commits itself to holding early Montenegrin parliamentary elections, as well as provide support for an early federal vote. "Only then would the Montenegrin and the Yugoslav parliaments have full legitimacy," he said, allowing for a possibility of holding a referendum if such a need remains after all the votes. "We have not been elected by the Montenegrin voters to prepare a referendum, but to preserve and bolster the common state," Bojovic persists in reminding his coalition partners.

But much important resistance to the all-party government project than Bojovic's has come from the so-called "Belgrade faction" of the Socialist People's Party. Both its vice presidents, Zoran Zizic and Srdja Bozovic -- the latter also the speaker of Yugoslav Parliament's Upper House -- are more in favor of toppling the Vujanovic cabinet with the help of the increasingly nervous Liberals. "A platform for redefining relations in the Federation, adopted by the federal government, has priority over the formation of an all-party government in Montenegro," said Zoran Zizic, immediately after the Montenegrin Legislature adjourned its session. That there are outstanding issues between the Socialist People's Party and the People's Party is confirmed by the latest statements made by Predrag Popovic and Predrag Drecun (People's Party), which question the very need of testing the will of Montenegro's citizens in a referendum.

It is widely known that People's Socialists' representatives in the Montenegrin legislature are not in favor of this solution, and one of them, Petar Samardzic, demonstrated this clearly enough by resigning from his post as an MP. Speaking, however, of the referendum in the conditional tense was only an attempt by Bulatovic to appease his disobedient followers. The leader of the People's Socialists has opted for an all-party government, which has no chance of being formed unless the referendum is not at least formally accepted as indisputable.

That the resolution of the crisis will begin in September was announced recently by spokespersons of opposition parties. It turned out that they were much better informed -- or at least less conspiratorial -- than their colleagues in or close to the government. A part of the public has taken this as "proof" that the Democratic Party of Socialists is again cutting deals with the pro-Yugoslav bloc. The harshest critics are, once more, the Liberals, but there are others -- renowned analysts such as Milan Popovic, for instance who show little understanding for the forming of an all-party government. The vice president of the People's Party, Predrag Drecun, plays on the suspicions and fears of the independists when speaking of "an offensive on the part of the pro-Yugoslav faction of the DPS," which, allegedly, he became aware of "during official and inofficial contacts." The Dan newspaper, traditionally in favor of sensations, backs this by reporting that the only present dilemma is whether Zoran Zizic or Svetozar Marovic will assume the office of Montenegrin premier.

Not ruling out the possibility that at the DPS top there are politicians to whom Belgrade will forever remain a capital city, less passionate analyses show that an all-party government is a logical outcome of a number of disparate, mostly mutually opposed, political and social factors. The DPS-SDP minority government would be hard put to bring to a successful completion such a major endeavor as the declaration and attainment of independence because, paradoxically, its most radical critics are the Liberals, to whom it has so far owed its survival. Coupled with social problems and corruption scandals, this makes the political situation for the Djukanovic government almost unbearable. For the international community, which is openly against Montenegro's independence, such a government cannot represent a factor that would make Brussels and Washington -- least of all Moscow -- change their minds.

To counter such perceptions, President Djukanovic reiterated in a Svedok magazine interview his resolve to create an "ambience in which all sides will recognize the referendum results." If it turns out that the all-party government is a formula ensuring such conditions, the independence advocates, led by him, will have to devise mechanisms for preventing the influence of pro-Yugoslav ministers and co-ministers (the principles the new government's formation are yet to be known). For, it is almost certain that the anti-independists will see their chances in the worsening of the political and social situation in Montenegro, which will inevitably lead to a majority of the population looking towards Yugoslavia as a solution to their increasing poverty, and the threat of the Greater Albania project. It is also unclear how principled the international community might turn out to be if the pro-Yugoslav parties -- once their political survival becomes threatened -- begin avoiding the implementation of the agreement.

Until the next spring ("We are ready to accept any date next April or May for scheduling the referendum," said Igor Luksic) many events are certain to happen in Podgorica, as well as Belgrade. The developments inside the DOS could greatly influence the future of the federal state and its eventual denouement in Montenegro. Wish that the mess concerning Montenegro's status be resolved by itself -- as an outcome of the ongoing dispute between Djindjic and Kostunica -- is still something the Podgorica government can only dream of. It is obvious, however, that the game will be played at home, and the preparations for that have already began. It appears that the Montenegrins will not be able to avoid a test of whether they are a people worthy of having a state of their own.

Darko Sukovic