AIM: start

SAT, 22 DEC 2001 22:09:05 GMT

Discord within Montenegrin "Sovereignty Bloc"

Common Cause, Particular Interests

Although sharing a common proclaimed goal of independence, the three Montenegrin parties from the so called " sovereignty bloc" - the Democratic Party of Socialists, Liberal Alliance and Social Democratic Party - seem to be political enemies rather than allies. Partly due to this, the long awaited referendum on independence keeps being postponed indefinitely

AIM Podgorica, December 12, 2001

"Farewell independence, farewell reforms!", exclaimed the spokesman of the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro (LSCG) Slavko Perovic in response to the "personal opinion" expressed by Jacques Chirac according to which the European Union would not recognize an independent Montenegrin state. The informal leader of the party engaged in the strife for Montenegrin independence longer than any other political group in the country also pinpointed the main culprit for the expected toppling of the project he himself personified at the start of the nineties: "DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists) is to blame for everything..," Perovic concluded, accusing the President of Montenegro Milo Djukanovic of "manipulating the pro-independence electorate"!? In other words, the Liberal Alliance’s spokesman merely used the statement of the French President as an excuse for clamping down on his adversaries.

Political analysts interpreted Perovic’s statement not merely as yet another telltale sign of the discord within the political forces striving for the independence of Montenegro, but also as an indicator as to where the main obstacle to the achievement of the set goal lies.

"Pressures coming from the international community are both great and unpleasant, but the distrust within the pro-independence bloc - particularly that pertaining to relations between LSCG and DPS – is the main hindrance to the project of the reinstatement of Montenegrin statehood", says Rade Bojovic, a political analyst of the Center for Regional Studies in Podgorica.

In the meantime, the minority DPS - SDP government owes its rule to the five Liberal Alliance members of parliament who have made it all possible, but who are also often unsparing critics of the present government, hardly any less harsh than their colleagues from the "Together for Yugoslavia" alliance. The Liberals doubt the sincerity of DPS’s commitment to the cause, even after the quest for international recognition was officially proclaimed the main goal of the party’s program. High LSCG officials keep reminding anyone concerned that a political bluff is in play, wholeheartedly backed by Predrag Bulatovic’s SNP (Socialist People’s Party of Montenegro), calculated at keeping the present status quo. The present state of affairs, Liberals claim, suits well both of the two principal political parties in Montenegro. When the right moment for putting an end to the pretence comes, DPS and SNP will unite - on a platform guaranteeing the preservation of a federal makeup of a sorts!?

The Liberal Alliance cannot forgive Djukanovic for refusing its proposal to put himself at the head of a pro-independence bloc which would have, the Liberals claim, won a two-thirds majority this spring. The struggle for independence could have been won as early as then, believes the LSCG Small Cabinet. The burdensome heritage of mutual distrust has been further fueled by the recent dispute concerning the Law on Referendum. The Liberals have been advocating the view that neither a qualified majority nor a bottom limit for the number of voters involved should be prescribed in reaching the decision on the status of the Montenegrin state. SDP backed them, DPS abstained from voting, thus in effect preventing the adoption of the draft Law on Referendum, a document qualified by the OSCE as "a step backwards" and resulting in numerous reproaches of the international community addressed to Podgorica. Nevertheless, top Liberal Alliance officials have remained deaf to all the arguments offered by DPS and adamant in their conclusion that DPS’s refusal to accept their solution to the problem has "set the project of independence a whole year back".

Of course, the list of existing "touchy points" and grudges does not end with the issue of independence. Perhaps even more gravely, the Liberals accuse the present government - particularly its DPS portion - of corruption, crime, incompetence, failure to execute reforms, abuse of police and the media...

On the other hand, a part of DPS views the Liberals as partners forced on them by ill luck and as, generally, immature political associates. In the formula for obtaining independence offered by the Liberal Alliance, a dose of a "lightly promised speed" and a hazardous disregard for domestic and international circumstances can be discerned. The Liberals are said to know the goal, but not the means to achieve it. Furthermore, since the clandestine negotiations between the LSCG and the pro-Yugoslav coalition this summer, the faith in the devotion to the cause of independence of some liberal leaders seems to have been undermined! In any case, the unmasking of the attempted "adultery" of the pro-Belgrade parties and the Liberal Alliance has liberated DPS from its fascination with the "freedom-fighting" pedigree of the Liberals. The town talk of an alleged "avarice" of one of the LSCG leaders coincides with the obscure post-election period of social turmoil and failed negotiations concerning the possible entry of the Liberals into the government.

The smallest of the parties in the pro-independence trinity, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), is trying to thaw the icy distrust governing relations between LSCG and DPS. Without visible results, for now. By supporting the motion of the Liberals that the principles of a qualified majority and census are not to be incorporated into the Law on Referendum, the SDP has, perhaps, somewhat improved its rating with the Small Cabinet. The leader of the Social Democrats, Ranko Krivokapic, is certainly not trying to conceal his wish to act as a mediator between the two sides, bringing them closer together and turning them into true allies. At least up to the holding of the referendum.

The very same message - that hatchets need to be buried for the sake of a "strategic unity" which will bring about the achievement of the common goal of a sovereign Montenegro - is being conveyed to the leaders of the three parties by scores of independent intellectuals, prominent journalists and, more or less openly, by foreign political analysts and diplomats. The latter have singled out the discord among the sovereignty bloc as a weak point their adversaries are making use of.

In spite of its clarity, it seems as though the said message has not come through. Some among the top echelons of DPS would rather strike a deal with the Socialist People’s Party or the People’s Party than with the Liberal Alliance. To their minds, Liberals are the embodiment of the "rightist extremism" or, at the very least, of the exaggerated national-romanticism, entirely unsuitable for the subtle political game in store. According to the Liberals, DPS is more of an "interest group" than anything else, inclined to bargains of all sorts, including those concerning their very homeland which, consequently, makes them an unreliable ally in the forthcoming decisive battle. Aside from these concrete reasons for mutual distrust, the relations between the two parties are also burdened by a history of conflicts and personal animosities of ten years standing. The diehards among LSCG are not prepared to forgive the present authorities for the calamity their party was exposed to in the first half of the nineties. The leadership of LSCG and, particularly Slavko Perovic (still the most influential figure in the party) cannot absolve Djukanovic from the sin of taking over a good part of the LSCG membership by adopting the essence of the Liberal Party’s platform.

In the existing medley of incompetence, personal vanities and the objective complexity of the situation, it would be highly imprudent to even attempt to predict how the pro-independence Montenegrin parties might bear themselves in months to come. Will they form a single front against the pro-federal option or, perhaps, each act on their own, futilely squandering their energies on both their adversaries and allies? At the moment, the notion that as of spring of the forthcoming year Ranko Krivokapic, Slavko Perovic and Milo Djukanovic might launch a joint appeal to their followers to cast their votes for an independent Montenegro from the UN headquarters on East River seems highly improbable. But then again, a precedent does exist: on the eve of the second round of voting during the presidential elections in Montenegro in 1997, Slavko Perovic called on his followers to vote for Djukanovic. And Djukanovic won. If it was possible to unite around a presidential figure acceptable to all at the time, what is to hinder a similar uniting of forces when the sovereignty of Montenegro itself is in question? Still, as is known, in this particular part of the world, politics have too often known to have the last laugh over logic.