AIM: start

THU, 05 APR 2001 01:20:56 GMT

Montenegro's Reactions to the Milosevic Arrest

"A 'True Patriot" Got What He Deserved

Except for the People's Socialist Party, not one relevant actor on the Montenegrin political scene spoke in defense of Slobodan Milosevic. Some, the discontent (and worried) were silent, and the majority -- gloated

AIM Podgorica, April 1, 2001

Politicians and news media in Montenegro did not keep a low profile regarding the events in Belgrade. The arrest of former Yugoslav president Slobodan Milosevic was the number one topic in radio and TV broadcasts, and party statements and promotions at the height of the election campaign were overshadowed by the efforts to arrest Milosevic.

A former close collaborator of Slobodan Milosevic, Momir Bulatovic, did not hasten to Belgrade to be at the side of the person whom he likes to call "my sincere friend." From a distance of several hundred kilometers, in Podgorica, he instead called for clemency for Milosevic, several hours before he was arrested.

Bulatovic, who became Yugoslav prime minister at Milosevic's proposal, arrived at a rally of his new party -- the People's Socialist Party -- wearing an immaculate and expensive suit and escorted by three frowning bodyguards. The crowd, consisting of men whose faces were red from drinking and women whose faces were smeared with cheap make-up, greeted him with cheers and cries of "Slobo! Slobo!" They continued to cheer to Milosevic throughout the rally occasionally interrupting Bulatovic's speech.

As opposed to former officials of the Socialist People's Party turned leaders of the People's Socialist Party, Novo Vujosevic and Emilo Labudovic, who praised Milosevic as a "symbol of patriotism, freedom and resistance" and a "defender of Yugoslav dignity," Bulatovic appeared somewhat less inspired. He asked that Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica pardon Milosevic, claiming that the stability of the country depended on this. He backed his request with the fact that Kostunica had pardoned ethnic Albanian poetess Flora Brovina, "Albanian terrorists and Croat spies," and by calling the Yugoslav president "an honest and good man and a jurist."

"I believe that all of us were deeply concerned last night over what course events in Yugoslavia will take. I felt particularly bad because it affected my sincere friend... I have cooperated with Milosevic for 10 years and I know that he is not guilty of a single crime listed in these false accusations," Bulatovic said. He did not comment on the cries of the crowd -- "Slobo!," "Slobo the Serb!," "Treason, treason!," and "Let's go to Belgrade!" -- nor on the claims by Novo Vujosevic that "the People's Socialist Party, together with the patriotic part of Montenegro, will spare no political effort to fight those who extradite defenders of the homeland to The Hague."

The People's Socialist Party accused the incumbent Yugoslav prime minister, Zoran Zizic, of precisely such intention. The Socialist People's Party, of which Zizic is a vice president, however, said it had nothing to do with Milosevic's arrest. Neither did the federal government. "The criminal charges for abuse of power and some other criminal activities is in the jurisdiction of the Serbian judiciary," said the party's media representative, Dragan Koprivica. The prime minister and other members of the federal cabinet made no public statements, trying as best as they could to play down the negative consequences of the arrest in the eyes of their backers.

Neither they nor their former leader, Momir Bulatovic, mentioned the possibility that Bulatovic himself could be placed behind bars in connection with the crimes that Milosevic was jailed for, and that a similar fate was in store for Zivadin Jovanovic, former Yugoslav foreign minister in the Bulatovic cabinet.

It is obvious that the Milosevic arrest will negatively affect the election campaign of the Socialist People's Party, whose supporters have on many occasions displayed their elation with Slobodan Milosevic. For the People's Socialist Party, however, the arrest is a true gift -- they can hope to win over many of the former's backers. Those most rigid, who believe that invoking nationalism and chauvinism and organizing rallies are still indispensable factors in the political struggle, have already sided with Momir Bulatovic, and those who are still undecided between moderate nationalist Kostunica and their dearest Slobo, are in the process of making up their minds.

The other, democratic Montenegro, did not have to make any calculations. Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic replaced his definition of Milosevic as the "dictator from Dedinje" by calling him a "definite political loser."

"Milosevic is a definite political loser who faces the moral and human fall that he deserved," said Djukanovic, claiming that over the past 10 years Milosevic led his people and his country through a horrible plight for selfish reasons -- only to secure power and privileges for himself and his family.

The speaker of the Montenegrin Legislature, Svetozar Marovic, also reacted to the events in Belgrade by saying that they "marked the sorrowful end of one dictatorship." This time around the Democratic Party of Socialists did not wait several days for passions to calm down as it regularly does. Maybe this was due to the fact that several years ago its representatives in the federal Parliament voted for Milosevic to become Yugoslav president. Miodrag Vukovic, senior official of Djukanovic's party, explained that on several occasions with their conviction that Milosevic would respect the Constitution. Although they certainly knew who he was because they had been Milosevic's coalition partners since the beginning of the 1990s. Djukanovic, Marovic, Vukovic, et al. only later learned that Milosevic has no respect for things he dislikes.

Despite a multitude of conflicting statements and comments, dissatisfaction with the explanations officially given as the reasons for Milosevic's arrest was quite conspicuous. This was well-illustrated by a question addressed by an official of the Social Democratic Party, Miodrag Ilickovic, to Belgrade: "Will Gen. Mladic and Radovan Karadzic be prosecuted for illegally moving into apartments in Belgrade, or for disturbing Sarajevo's zoning plans?"

It is clear that in the campaign that is gaining momentum there will be a lot talk about Milosevic and his allies in Montenegro as well.

Mila Radulovic