THU, 02 AUG 2001 21:49:24 GMT
Montenegro between a Minority and Coalition Government
Dialogue or a Waste of Time
An all-party coalition government could help resolve the status of
Montenegro only if, prior to its forming, all relevant parties agree on
conditions for a referendum on independence.
AIM Podgorica, July 27, 2001
Only a nation accustomed to the unbelievable could so peacefully accept
that which in the election campaign seemed impossible: in a conversation
with Premier Filip Vujanovic, representatives of the Together for
Yugoslavia coalition said they were ready to enter a cabinet composed of
all parliamentary parties and simultaneously
participate in preparations for a referendum on Montenegro's
independence. True, neither God nor the participants of this historic
meeting did anything to boost media coverage of the event. When they did
what they did in silence, they sent a carefully worded and optimistic
message to the public: "We hope that our talks will lead to stability
and the development of democracy in Montenegro."
There have been similar meetings in Montenegro in the past, held in
seclusion and with the same list of participants, and other optimistic
messages. And all of them had one thing in common: the talks took place
only when the players were up to their necks in trouble, and when they,
embattled as they were, deep down had some common interests. When the
situation is perceived from this angle, there is nothing strange about
it. Montenegro remains deeply divided. Milosevic's departure has
confirmed what everybody knew all along: no one outside Montenegro,
neither Belgrade nor the world, could assist in this matter even if they
wanted to do so. This is why it is not prudent to rule out any chance of
an agreement between the feuding politicians. But experience says it is
good to take a better look at what, in fact, inspired the Democratic
Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Together for Yugoslavia coalition to
start negotiating at this particular moment.
According to competent observers, including Montenegrin President Milo
Djukanovic, the Democratic Party of Socialists has not abandoned the
idea of a sovereign Montenegro, but is no longer giving any deadlines.
The animosity inside the "Montenegrin bloc" did not subside even after
the Liberals decided to support the minority government. Montenegro is
overwhelmed by depression and exhaustion, two conditions aggravated by
waiting. The Nacional scandal has shaken the government, the roads are
often blocked by discontent workers whose companies are going under and
whose families are starving and who should not be asked about their
national awareness and political preference. When all this is taken into
account it is quite understandable why the DPS decided it could profit
from talks with the Together for Yugoslavia coalition. If everybody in
Montenegro accepted participation in government, if they are all somehow
brought together with the DPS, criticism will subside, both in the
legislature and outside of it. Every day of respite, in this light,
seems like a gift from God.
Together for Yugoslavia doubtless made the same assumptions before the
meeting with Vujanovic. Its leaders also know what others in Montenegro
are very familiar with: supporters of Montenegro's independence, despite
all their mutual differences, are in the majority in the Legislature.
The government, albeit minority in character, has had its schedule
confirmed by the Legislature, and according to it the status of
Montenegro has to be resolved in a year's time at the most. It cannot be
that such experienced politicians as Predrag Bulatovic, Dragan Soc, and
Bozidar Bojovic have not taken a peek at the Constitution and found out
that it says Montenegrin citizens have a non-alienable right to state,
by referendum, what kind of country they would like to live in.
By saying that it would accept the referendum if it were prepared by an
all-party coalition government, the Together for Yugoslavia bloc has
not, in fact, made any major concession. This is why its leaders keep
insisting on psychological arguments: "Our coalition would probably
boycott a referendum organized by the Filip Vujanovic government, which
would lead to political instability," said the leader of the Socialist
People's Party, Predrag Bulatovic, after the meeting. Together for
Yugoslavia's participation in government would be the shortest way for
them to make up for their defeat in elections and, as part of the
government both in Podgorica and in Belgrade, have a say in what
happens. And there is also something else: Predrag Bulatovic and his
fellow fighters, possess detailed information on presently invisible
factions in the DPS. This is why they believe that by returning to
government they would have a more favorable position to further
undermine the not overly united Djukanovic party.
Despite all this, in an interview on BK TV Milo Djukanovic supported
the idea of forming a broad coalition government if, as he put it, "the
opposition agrees to a referendum." Premier Vujanovic was more direct:
"Our goal is clear, and whether the referendum will be prepared by a
broad coalition government or a multi-party legislature group is only a
technicality." This is a brief description of the outward appearance of
the situation. However, things are not that simple. The problem is that
the two main parties are not alone in the Legislature.
The Social Democratic Party, a smaller partner in the victorious
coalition, is not enchanted by the idea of a broad coalition government.
"After seven or eight traumatic years of clashes with the international
community, the democratic forces of Montenegro absolutely have no need
to create either a coalition or broad coalition government with forces
that still favor protecting war crimes policies and war criminals, and
are against cooperation with the international community in regard to
the key issue that caused this tragedy and the economic, political and
moral ruin of the region -- which is cooperation with the Hague court,"
said party vice president Ranko Krivokapic.
The mood in the Liberal Alliance of Montenegro, which has offered
support to the Vujanovic minority cabinet, is similar. "Montenegro is
not in a state of war nor is a major national emergency in progress, so
we do not need an all-party coalition government," said its political
leader, Miodrag Zivkovic.
It is clear that an all-party government is not possible without the
Social Democrats and the Liberals. And this is where the most
embarrassing chapter of the story begins. It is quite clear that both
the DPS and the Together for Yugoslavia bloc knew the small parties
would react the way they did. Why then did they initiate the talks in
the first place? There are many plausible answers to this question, but
it is hard to say which is right. Things are very mysterious indeed.
Several days ago a message arrived from Belgrade, coming from Dragoljub
Micunovic. Micunovic said Belgrade had received word that Podgorica was
ready to abandon its demand for international recognition. This was
swiftly and strongly dismissed by senior DPS official Miodrag Vukovic.
One thing is certain: the Liberals and the Social Democrats could
prevent the forming of a broad coalition government, but can do nothing
if the DPS and the Together for Yugoslavia bloc make an agreement and
find a suitable form for a joint venture. That would be very simple
because in the Legislature they control almost 90 percent of the seats.
Well-informed observers claim that not even this is the end of the story
about Montenegro's broad coalition government. Some say that the DPS and
the opposition bloc met for talks without any specific goal but simply
to buy time, and right now that seems likely. Neither of the two knew
what their next step would be. If that was true, this would be the best
illustration of what is going on in Montenegro. Everything appears
genuine -- the promises made by certain parties, the obligations of the
government, the talks -- and in real life Montenegro is gradually losing
its desire for any kind of decision and preference for one idea or
another. Numb of waiting, Montenegro does not know how to go forward,
cannot go back, and is out of valid excuses. If Milosevic were only here
so we could blame the whole mess on him!