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Montenegro: Political Parties Ponder Future

The apparent ouster of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic has raised significant questions as to the future of Serbia's tiny sister republic Montenegro. Our correspondent in Montenegro's capital, Alexandra Poolos, reports.

Podgorica, Yugoslavia; 9 October 2000 (RFE/RL) -- Montenegrin political parties were racing on Friday (Oct. 6) to redefine their relationship to Yugoslavia's new government fronted by Vojislav Kostunica, who is recognized at home and abroad as Yugoslavia's president-elect.

The Social People's Party (SPS) was the first to voice its position at an afternoon press conference in Podgorica on Friday. At the conference, SNP Vice President Zoran Zizic said his party, traditionally allied with Milosevic's Socialist Party of Serbia, or SPS, supports Kostunica and has been in contact with him. Zizic says his party wants the SPS to recognize Kostunica's victory.

But Zizic also says the SNP, the only party to participate in September 24 federal elections in Montenegro, wants Kostunica to recognize the constitution and convoke the new parliament legally, meaning that the current president of the upper and lower houses of parliament should call the new body.

Milomir Minic, of Milosevic's SPS, presides over the House of the Citizens (lower house), and Srdja Bozovic of Zizic's SNP presides over the House of the Republics (upper house).

Another SNP vice president, Predag Bulatovic, was asked whether Milosevic's ally, SNP chief Momir Bulatovic, would retain his role as federal prime minister.

As Predrag Bulatovic puts it: "There will be consultations [over Momir Bulatovic's future role], but the most important [thing] for us is that the mandate for prime minister goes to the SNP. Under that mandate the Social People's Party will work to gather all political forces in the federal parliament to preserve the federal republic of Yugoslavia. They will work to gather other political parties, especially with the DPS [Democratic Party of Socialists] in Montenegro [the biggest partner in the three party governing coalition of President Milo Djukanovic]." Predag Bulatovic says the SNP wants Montenegro to remain a part of the federal republic of Yugoslavia.

But Montenegrin President Milo Djukanovic said Friday night that Montenegro must share equal status with Serbia in the federal republic. Djukanovic issued a statement, calling on Kostunica and his future government to abide by a previously submitted platform of the Montenegrin government, which says that the two republics should be equal in a loose federation. Djukanovic says unless this condition is accepted, Montenegro will have no choice but to opt for independence.

Montenegro has been teetering towards a referendum for independence for the past year. Western governments have rewarded Djukanovic's Coalition for a Better Life with foreign aid and political backing for its democratic practices. But Djukanovic has held off making any drastic moves for fear that Milosevic might incite yet another Yugoslav war.

Now, with Milosevic effectively removed from power and his Montenegrin Socialist allies quickly aligning themselves with Kostunica, it remains to be seen how much support Djukanovic will have if he calls for independence.

Djukanovic's position within the federal republic has been further weakened by the fact that he boycotted the September 24 elections, a move which Kostunica, a professor of constitutional law, has called "a big mistake."