By Igor Peric
At the time of the 'celebration' staged on St. Vitus' Day in the
year of 1989 to mark the 600th anniversary of Prince Lazar's passing from earthly to
heavenly kingdom, when a certain Montenegrin (by origin), playing with history and
politics, opened Pandora's box of the Balkans, hardly anyone among the rallied would
wager that Montenegro, largely swept by an identical heavenly euphoria and mythomania,
would one fine day in May turn out for a referendum and leave Serbia, caught unawares, the
legacy of a common state's legal status and then set out on a road of its own.
Somewhat symbolically indeed, the last "i" was dotted on another St.
Vitus' day when the flag of Montenegro was hoisted on East River, in front of the UN New
Now that calls for infinite lament and a new bard to mourn history and
its cycles where misfortunes befall Serbs on June 28 - Kosovo of yore, Milosevic's
extradition to the Hague of late. Harder and harder it gets, ending with Montenegrin
membership of the UN, which, as the radicals would put it, temporarily removed it from
Serbia's historical borders.
It was on May 21, that the eternal dreams of expanded Serbia's borders
in a union that was anything but, were dispelled:
Under the vigilant eye of the domestic and international public, controlled conditions and
special rules established through the EU mediation, the citizens of Montenegro decided the
fate of their state.
While at it, they also made a decision for Serbia, which has thus, after
88 years, also become independent, causing much chagrin to a part of state establishment
in Belgrade, so much so, that it took them almost a month to unclench their teeth and,
having assumed the continuity of the former state, recognize the new neighbor in the
From a time distance of a month or two it is increasingly obvious that
the clear result of the referendum of over 55 per cent, i.e. 10.5 percent advantage for
the pro-independence block, has actually relaxed the relations between the members of the
former state union, or rather spared Podgorica and Belgrade the continuing agony of
On the other hand, the referendum has merely marked the first stage in
settling the shaky Montenegrin political scene, where tremors will continue until the
parliamentary elections this fall - a contest where points are scored with the already
known story, without a chance for a true about-turn or a new political offer on the
market. Quite simply, the time between the referendum and the elections is much too short
for the constitution of the first parliament in independent Montenegro not to be affected
by thus far principal topics.
There seems to be no chance for a wider social consensus, indispensable
to deal with major challenges facing Montenegro. The first step will be the drafting of
the new constitution, but that, along with the likelihood of finding a common language for
the crucial issues of overall interest, is impossible to expect before the political scene
has crystallized at the autumn elections. Before scheduling the elections, the electoral
legislation will have to be changed to accommodate the provisions of the new minority law
anticipating guaranteed seats in the parliament to minority nations. It will be just as
interesting to see the electoral composition of the two blocks.
For the time being, it is clear that the announced withdrawals and moral
acts have gone missing, excepting the feigned resignation of the Serbian Popular Party
leader, dismissed outright by the party's Main Board.
Not long ago, before the referendum, the leaders of the two blocks,
convinced of their victory, boastfully promised that if, God forbid, their option was
defeated, they would still summon the strength to shake the winner's hand and step down
to make room for somebody else.
This obviously does not happen in Montenegro because one can always
resort to the pretext called the undemocratic, non-transparent electoral swindle, or
irregular voter registry even if the fault-finder himself had sung it praises until the
polling stations were opened (which is indeed what happened).
In all likelihood, a lot of water will pass under the Moraca bridge
obtains the first normal elections where the parties will not be able to
link to topics that have nothing to do with the country's economy, European
integrations, improved standard of living.
The parties comprising the block for the preservation of the union,
instead of recognizing defeat, chose to deny the results hoping to work out some benefit
for their shaken political position.
The fact that the Serbian government summoned the strength to recognize
the real situation 20 days after the vote for Montenegrin independence, failed to
influence the change of the opposition's views. And neither did the post-referendum
reality unaccompanied by the announced sufferings of Montenegrin citizens facing new visa
requirements, passports, levies on students and patients - in a word, all the scary,
apocalyptical forecasts voiced from the various rostrums and daises.
Naturally, the opposition took this course mostly for practical reasons,
describable in terms of election problems.
Namely, it starts from way down the scale, with the same platform it
used at the referendum, which means that it still fights for the preservation of the
union, or more precisely for those same voters who said the fateful NO at the plebiscite.
That is why the pro-union block, preparing for the autumn election,
"feeds" on the referendum defeat. Its champions play for all or nothing. Actually,
after the referendum debacle, their only though was to apply a pattern that will help them
keep the electorate in a state of prolonged stress over the loss of union with Serbia and
use that story to win as many votes as possible at the elections.
Whether used unintentionally or deliberately, this tactics wherein
defeat, i.e. the result of the referendum is not recognized and the voters are invited to
support those who called on them to say NO to independent Montenegro, works for Djukanovic
and the DPS, in particular. They do not have to make too much of an effort to change their
agenda, at least for these first elections. Suffice it to schedule the elections and the
citizens who voted independence will rush to defend their newly established state from
those who would once again test it on a referendum of a kind.
There is yet another thing that works in favor of sovereignists'
parties, namely a near certainty that the joint block of parties supporting the
preservation of the union will not appear at the autumn elections.
Fragmentation and division into at least two election teams is in sight,
incited intentionally by the Serbian Popular Party (SNS) wishing to impose itself as the
exclusive defender of Serbian interests in Montenegro. The SNS is struggling to secure
itself as good as possible position in independent Montenegro by exploiting the story
about protecting the endangered Serbs...
This party has initiated the forming of a Serbian ticket, and started
collecting signatures on a petition for the right of Serbs from Montenegro to obtain
The idea for a joint electoral effort of parties from this block using a
single Serbian list, repeatedly proposed in the media primarily to the strongest
opposition party, the SNP, was in effect a deliberately offered apple of discord.
Namely, the SNS initiated the forming of the "Serbian ticket"
inviting the response of the SNP knowing full well that it will be negative, since the
SNP, declaratively a civic party, has no wish for a national prefix, not even Serbian,
although most of its membership so declare.
On the other hand, by calling upon the Popular Party and the DSS to join
it (refused by both), the SNS set its course towards the "right side of the scene".
The Popular Party believes that the SNS initiatives, including the one
on the bicameral Montenegrin parliament, split the main body of the nation, i.e. the
majority orthodox people internally divided into Serbs and Montenegrins due to the deeply
enrooted Montenegrin dualism. This party therefore believes that, by doing this, the SNS
merely seeks promotion, headless of the overall interests of the "constituting
majority". The smallest of these parties, the DSS, itself splintered from the SNS,
dismisses the SNS initiative saying it is an experiment that may give Djukanovic a
possibility to remain in power.
The DSS believe that any fragmentation in the pro-union block works for
On the other hand, the champions of sovereign Montenegro, having
fulfilled their referendum plans and seeing the rapid accession of Montenegro to
international organizations relaxed, so much so as to contemplate going to the elections
independently. That would certainly cause a reshuffle and redistribution within the
long-standing DPS-SDP coalition. If the DPS goes to the election alone, as it says it
will, the question is how the smaller member of the coalition, the SDP will fare, since it
hasn't checked its weight on the republic scales for quite some time. Would that be
making room for Zivkovic's Party, or has the SDP perhaps developed logistics enabling it
to capitalize on its currently strong influence in the electoral contest.
Some attempts to join forces have been made in the so-called liberal
block and the Liberal Party offered the Civic Party a merger, since both emerged out of
the Liberal Alliance. The Civic Party refused, requesting a pre-referendum coalition,
which is at variance with the Liberal Party's program, which does not allow for
Anyway, the Liberal Party believes that pre-election coalitions should
be outlawed since it would be the only way to obtain the real picture about the strength
and influence of specific parties in Montenegro and prevent trade-offs and bargaining
accompanying all elections.
The unknown factor in this whole story is the position to be taken by
the Group for Change about to be transformed into a political party in mid-July.
Until a year ago, it was viewed as a player capable of spoiling the
plans of the ruling coalition.
However, ever since the referendum its popularity has been on the
decline, confirming the views many analysts offered several years ago when the Group was
The catch is the fact that the founders and leaders of the Group for
Change were prominent members of pro-independence parties, who somehow disappeared from
Judging that the supporters of sovereignty will find it difficult to
pass the threshold of a ten percent advantage, and needing to keep his distance from the
authorities for the autumn elections, the Group's leader Nebojsa Medojevic came too
close to the unionists. The elections will show how high a price he will have to pay for
His subsequent attempts to wiggle out and remind the public that he has
firmly supported independence, but refuses any post-electoral coalition with Djukanovic,
hardly give him a plausible chance in the present set-up and atmosphere recalling a
BOX 1: Awaiting referendum
Some pro-Serbian opposition parties in Montenegro look upon history as
an ongoing dialectic process, and believe that the current post-referendum balance of
power in favor of independence should be viewed in that light.
This philosophical introduction to defend the view that the referendum
was fraudulent and illegitimate underpins the Popular Party's view that all members of
the block should close ranks, create a pre-election coalition, win the election,
democratize Montenegro and then organize a new "honest" referendum.
The Popular Party argues that the referendum, although admittedly too
early to contemplate, could be organized by Montenegro alone, since Serbia obviously, did
not wish to break up the union.
BOX 2: Vasojevic clan seeks autonomy
The Vasojevic association "Vaso" says it will claim autonomy within
Montenegro along with the opening of a Serbian, as well as a British consulate in
Andrijevica, at the foot of Komovi range.
According to this association's representative Zoran Lakusic, member
of the SNP (which failed to comment on its member's plans), that is the only way to
protect the Serbian people and the Vasojevic clan who now feel more damaged and endangered
than ever before.
Before the initiative was made known, a number of resigned voters of the
pro-union block in the envisaged autonomous region, put their estates, including whole
villages, on sale, advertising that Albanian nationality buyers will have the right of
That is what a certain Bajo Bulatovic from Kolasin has personally done,
advertising the sale of his house because he was leaving for Serbia, and stressing that
the priority will be given to Albanians, referring to them with a derisive sobriquet
The pro-union block failed to say a single word to condemn these acts,
or at least ask its followers not to insult the members of other nations.