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Montenegro and federal elections: split in the coalition

Can the discord between Marovic and Djukanovic lead to the split in Montenegrin ruling coalition?

Whenever changes are within sight in Serbia - political ground in Montenegro trembles. That is what it was like during the big demonstrations in 1996 and 1997 when the ruling Montenegrin Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) fell apart and when from a supporter Milo Djukanovic transformed into a great opponent of Slobodan Milosevic. Nowadays, on the eve of federal elections, when public opinion polls predict defeat of Yugoslav president and victory of Serbian opposition, Montenegrin ruling coalition seems less and less united and less and less stable, although it is not participating in the elections. Djukanovic is certainly concerned the most with the differences in his own party - DPS. Differences concerning the state and legal status of Montenegro within this party have not been a secret for a long time. Svetozar Marovic, chairman of Montenegrin parliament, heads the faction to whose heart preservation of Yugoslav federation is nearer than the project of independent Montenegro.

Apart from strong pro-Yugoslav feelings, chairman of Montenegrin parliament is linked to Belgrade by powerful personal connections with influential political, cultural and business circles in Belgrade. In the nineties Budva, the home town of Svetozar Marovic, has become the informal centre in which business, politics and entertainment intermingled. In the capital of Montenegrin tourism, Marovic's guests who were gladly received were among other "father of Serb nation" Dobrica Cosic, former main Milosevic's propagandist Milorad Vucelic, as well as one of the wealthiest Serbian businessman Bogoljub Karic.

Those who know Marovic well say that he does not feel comfortable in the role of the "second man". Besides, there is no doubt that Marovic would be a much more acceptable solution for Serbian opposition than Milo Djukanovic. What presidential candidate of Serbian opposition Vojislav Kostunica and Svetozar Marovic have in common is the project of preservation of Yugoslav federation. For the time being Marovic is the only one from the leadership of DPS who declared that this moment was "not the best time for the Yugoslav cause, but that he believes that this cause has a future".

On the other hand, it appears that Djukanovic does not believe in the federal constitution of Serbia and Montenegro, regardless of who is in power in Belgrade. Ideological differences between the powerful men in DPS were held hidden, swept under the carpet, until the interest in redistribution of social wealth got involved last spring. As president of the management board of Budvanska rivijera enterprise Marovic backed the illegal sale of Mogren Hotel. Without approval of the government and without respecting the procedure, Mogren Hotel was almost sold to an unknown Swiss company the name of which cannot be found in Swiss business and court registers. The dubious business deal was interrupted by the government and the powerful clan in Budva was struck a severe blow.

But chairman of Montenegrin assembly did not wait long to strike back. He is nowadays openly opposed to the contract signed by the government with French Accord on management of three exclusive hotels which also belong to Budvanska rivijera enterprise. Marovic and his allies from Budva claim that the contract is disadvantageous both for Montenegro and the company they manage. They might be right because this business deal was signed with many unknown elements, without following the legal procedure and principles of public and transparent work. Simultaneously with flaring up of the scandal concerning Accord which has seriously shaken DPS, demands given as an ultimatum of representatives of the People's Party (NS), one of the members of the coalition intensified. In the end of August the main board of this party withdrew its representative in the programme committee of state television demanding "replacement or resignation of the editorial team".

In the past few days, the leadership of NS has gone a step further - they are threatening they would step out of the coalition if their demand is not met. "The People's Party shall not continue to warn its coalition partners that they are not abiding by the signed agreement on cooperation. Our next step will be stepping out of the coalition", said Predrag Popovic, one of the leaders of NS and deputy chairman of Montenegrin parliament. The heads of state television are accused of pursuing "separatist editorial policy and propaganda according to which preservation of the union of Serbia and Montenegro is impossible".

Is the campaign against the management of state TV which is greatly influenced by Djukanovic a pure accident at this moment or is it an indirect attempt to influence it and limit Djukanovic's power?

People's Party, like Marovic, is closely linked with Vojislav Kostunica and Serbian opposition. In the beginning of the nineties, the Populists appeared on Montenegrin political scene as the leaders of the pro-Serbian cause. After dissolution of SFRY, they actively participated in creation of FRY. For a long time they supported Milosevic and his aggressive, war policy towards Slovenia, Croatia and Bosnia. This alliance broke in 1996 when People's Party established a coalition with the Liberal League.

The Populists later on joined Djukanovic's block. Nowadays, when the federal elections are drawing near, they insist that Milosevic is the main and the only generator of the crisis in relations between Serbia and Montenegro.

The variegated Montenegrin ruling coalition gathered three years ago around joint struggle against Yugoslav president and the danger of violence he is constantly threatening the small Republic with. His departure from the political scene could lead to a split and regrouping of forces in Montenegro into two blocks - the one in favour of preservation of FRY and the one in favour of independent Montenegro. It seems, however, that it is too early to speak about it despite the differences that are shaking the regime in Podgorica. Despite favourable forecasts of the institutes which investigate public opinion, only great optimists can believe that Milosevic will peacefully depart from the scene after September 24. And towards whom he will direct his forces: towards Montenegrin regime or towards Serbian opposition, it remains to be seen after the elections.

Milka Tadic-Mijovic

AIM Podgorica, September 21, 2000

Source: AIM
(Alternativna Informativna Mreza /Alternative Information Network in former Yugoslavia)

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