PAGE 2/3


NO 95-96

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3

INFO   :::  Helsinki Charter - PAGE 2 > Helsinki Charter No. 95-96 > Text


Helsinki Charter No. 95-96

May - June 2006



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 York seat.

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 region.

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 communion.

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 before Montenegro

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 Serbian citizenship.

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 Djukanovic.

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 pre-referendum alliances.

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 actually established.

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 pre-referendum calculations.

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 that blunder.

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 post-referendum referendum.


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 first refusal.

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 "Albanezi".

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.


NO 95-96

PAGE 2/3 ::: 1 | 2 | 3







Copyright * Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Serbia - 2008

Web Design * Eksperiment