Montenegro: Hello, Good-bye

The latest parliamentary elections in Montenegro—the smaller partner in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia—have failed to resolve the federation’s future status. The ruling pro-independence coalition, which advocates a break with Serbia, and pro-federation parties emerged nearly even in the April 22 poll. President Milo Djukanovic’s pro-independence “Victory Belongs to Montenegro” won a slim majority over the pro-federal coalition “Together for Yugoslavia.” But the majority enjoyed by Djukanovic and his allies—5,000 of the total 360,000 votes cast—was too small to enable his group to form a government by itself.

The Victory coalition won 36 seats in the 77-member parliament, while the pro-federation parties won 33. Albanian parties won two seats, and the tiny Liberal Alliance won six seats. Talks on a future government will be tough for Djukanovic because the Liberals insist that Podgorica sever all relations with Belgrade. Djukanovic’s coalition prefers to maintain some ties to Serbia.

“No side has reason to be satisfied with the results, although the pro-independence bloc will have an advantage in parliament,” Srdjan Darmanovic, a Montenegrin analyst, told the Podgorica-based pro-government Pobjeda (April 24).

Still, Belgrade, which supported pro-federation parties, “cannot be satisfied either. [Yugoslav President Vojislav] Kostunica and [Serbian Prime Minister Zoran] Djindjic can rest comfortably, since the bloc they supported did better than expected. The federation option, however, enjoys only minority support,” Darmanovic said.

“The elections cheered and saddened supporters of both Montenegrin independence and the pro-Yugoslav option—a fact that leads one to conclude that Montenegro’s small electorate confirmed a political stalemate,” commented columnist Ivan Torov of Belgrade’s independent Danas (April 28). “Both sides have reason for pause: Djukanovic’s troops must consider whether an incorrect strategy after Milosevic’s fall provided an unconvincing victory. [Pro-federation leader Predrag] Bulatovic’s allies have to consider why the pro-independence option won a majority despite the strong influence of Kostunica’s nationalistic bloc and pre-election pressure by Western countries and Russia,” Torov said.

Pobjeda declared (April 24) that the elections showed Montenegrins’ faith in “a new basis for better relations with Serbia and others in the region.” Milka Tadic, of Montenegro’s independent weekly Monitor (April 27), went further: “In these elections, the joint state of Serbia and Montenegro has become illegitimate.”

Naturally, the view from Belgrade was rather different. Stojan Cerovic, a columnist for the independent newsmagazine Vreme, wrote (April 26): “Djukanovic should organize a peaceful and disciplined withdrawal from the pro-independence position—which failed to win a majority—and start working on reconciliation of his own people, whose division he has contributed to.” Cerovic said that the independence position made sense when Milosevic was in power: “Without a clear threat from Belgrade, however, such a policy becomes senseless, unreasonable, risky, and suspicious.”

How can the stalemate in Montenegro be resolved? “The April elections showed, in colorful words, that Yugoslavia was clinically dead in Montenegro, but Montenegro has yet to come to life,” Monitor’s Tadic wrote.

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