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The Montenegrin Election
Commission reported on 1 June that the For A Better Life
coalition led by reformist President Milo Djukanovic won
49.5 percent of the vote in the 31 May parliamentary
elections (see "End Note" below). The Socialist People's
Party of Yugoslav Prime Minister Momir Bulatovic, who
supports President Slobodan Milosevic, took 36 percent and
the Liberal Alliance 6 percent. Djukanovic's backers will
have an outright majority of seats in the parliament. A
spokesman for OSCE monitors said that the fairness of the
election was a "significant improvement" over previous
polls. In Washington, a State Department spokesman praised
the vote "as a positive step forward in building democracy
in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Serbia and
Montenegro. The elections appear to have proceeded
peacefully and in accordance with international standards."

...AS DOES SERBIAN OPPOSITION. Vesna Pesic, who is president
of the Citizens' League of Serbia, said in Belgrade on 1
June that Djukanovic's victory "marks the first step toward
freeing Yugoslavia from an undemocratic regime. This is the
first time that forces that offer a real way out of the 10-
year crisis [of Milosevic's rule] and destruction of the
country have won in free elections," RFE/RL's South Slavic
Service reported. PM



by Patrick Moore

        The For a Better Life coalition, which is loyal to
reformist President Milo Djukanovic, won an outright
majority of seats in the 31 May election to the Montenegrin
parliament and to local assemblies. Djukanovic supporters in
the Montenegrin parliament will now be able to change the
composition of the Montenegrin delegation to the upper house
of the federal parliament in Belgrade and thereby affect the
balance of power there between supporters and opponents of
Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic.
        The purpose in calling an early legislative vote was
to clarify the respective strengths of Djukanovic and his
rival, former President Momir Bulatovic, who is a staunch
supporter of Milosevic. Both sides agreed to the vote in the
wake of the October 1997 presidential election, which
Djukanovic won by a small margin and after which Bulatovic
charged fraud. The police, who are loyal mainly to
Djukanovic, thwarted attempts by Bulatovic supporters in
January to launch a campaign of violence. Bulatovic hoped
that the violence would prompt federal Prime Minister Radoje
Kontic to declare a state of emergency and thereby prevent
Djukanovic's inauguration.
        On 18 May, pro-Milosevic deputies in the federal
parliament ousted the independent-minded Kontic and replaced
him with Bulatovic two days later. Milosevic most likely
staged a "coup" at that particular time in order to help
Bulatovic and his Socialist People's Party (SNP) in the
parliamentary vote. Neither Djukanovic nor his Democratic
Socialist Party (DPS) recognized Kontic's ouster or
Bulatovic's election.
        Djukanovic and Bulatovic have not always been bitter
enemies, however. The two began their political careers in
the late 1980s as allies and as proteges of Milosevic, whose
wars in Croatia and Bosnia they loyally supported.
Djukanovic and many of those around him are widely believed
to have profited greatly from smuggling fuel, cigarettes,
and alcohol in violation of the wartime sanctions.
        With time, however, Djukanovic seems to have concluded
that Milosevic's policies meant Yugoslavia's continued
isolation. This, he argued, would be a disaster for
Montenegro, whose long-term economic health depends on
reviving the key shipping and tourism sectors. In 1997,
Djukanovic openly adopted a domestic program of democracy,
reform, and a free market, as well as policy of openness. He
convinced the majority of the governing DPS of the soundness
of his views, and the pro-Bulatovic faction was forced to
leave in August 1997 and went on to found the SNP.
        Milosevic and Bulatovic frequently accused Djukanovic
of seeking to take Montenegro out of the Yugoslav
federation. Djukanovic repeatedly denied the charges and
told students in Podgorica shortly before the October
elections that "Yugoslavia is not a Gypsy camp" to be pulled
up and put down at will. He has stressed that his goal is to
reform Yugoslavia so that it can survive and to end what he
calls Milosevic's isolationist and dictatorial policies.
        To be sure, some old Montenegrin traditions lurk
beneath the surface of this debate on the issues of 1998.
One is the dispute between the "Greens"--who stress a
distinct Montenegrin identity vis-a-vis Serbia or who even
advocate independence--and the "Whites," who believe that
the Montenegrins are a special group within the Serbian
nation. Another tradition in Montenegrin political culture
involves rivalries among clans in regions, which certainly
played a part in determining who sided with Djukanovic and
who with Bulatovic.
        But Djukanovic seems to have convinced the voters of
the merits of his arguments. The Green-White dispute and
clan issues alone are insufficient to account for
Montenegro's switch from staunch support for Milosevic at
the beginning of the decade to being his main source of
problems within the federal government.
        The first point of confrontation is likely to be over
the upper house of the federal parliament. Serbia and
Montenegro each have 20 seats in that body, even though
Serbia's population is about 10 times that of Montenegro.
The new parliament in Podgorica may soon recall some
Bulatovic supporters from among the 20 deputies and replace
them with Djukanovic's people. The Montenegrin delegation
would then be in a position to combine forces with
Milosevic's other enemies in Belgrade and perhaps help force
him from office.
        But not if Bulatovic and Milosevic act first, RFE/RL's
South Slavic Service notes. Having failed to weaken
Djukanovic in the parliamentary elections, their next move
is likely to be to force a bill through both houses of the
federal parliament to end the reformers' control over the
Montenegrin police. The police in Yugoslavia are currently
subordinate to the governments of Serbia or Montenegro.
Milosevic and Bulatovic are likely to try to push through
legislation that would make both the Serbian and Montenegrin
police part of a Yugoslav force subordinate to--and
controlled by--Milosevic's supporters.
        Milosevic is likely to try to win his political battle
with Djukanovic quickly so as to concentrate his energies on
the armed conflict in Kosova. Both problems, it should be
noted, are of his own making.("RFE/RL Newsline," 02 June 1998).

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