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South Slavic: September 7, 2000

7 September 2000, Volume 2, Number 33

What Future For Montenegrin Politics? Part IV

Omer Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge) we are going to discuss how to overcome the strong polarization in Montenegro after the recent changes in the constitution of Yugoslavia. Our guests are two Montenegrin top officials, one from the opposition [pro-Milosevic] Socialist People's Party (SNP), and the other from the ruling Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) [of President Milo Djukanovic]. Our guest from Niksic is Zeljko Sturanovic, member of the presidency of the Democratic Party of Socialists, and from Podgorica Vuksan Simonovic, member of the steering committee of the Socialist People's Party. [Part I appeared on 17 August, Part II on 24 August, and Part III on 31 August...]

Vuksan Simonovic: ...Montenegro has 20 deputies in the Upper House of the Federal Parliament, and you wanted all of them to be from the Democratic Party of Socialists and from the People's Party--the parties having the majority in the Parliament of Montenegro.

Zeljko Sturanovic: That was a decision of the Parliament of Montenegro.

Vuksan Simonovic: Did not we, the Socialist People's Party, propose a law to elect the deputies according to the proportional system? Yes, we did, but you did not accept it. If you thought that you would thereby block the functioning of the federal parliament and the election of the federal president--and all those things were aimed at destroying Yugoslavia and making it die--well, you can see now, you could not do it.

...In the future, citizens will directly select both the president and the deputies for the Upper House. Tell me, is that democratic or not? Does direct democracy represent a democratic breakthrough or not?

Zeljko Sturanovic: Did the Socialist People's Party know that the constitutional changes had been prepared, or were you not informed about these activities?....

Vuksan Simonovic: I was partly informed, but not as much as our relevant and legitimate representatives in Belgrade. As you know, my job is here in Montenegro, not in Belgrade.

Zeljko Sturanovic: When I say "you," I do not mean you personally, but the Socialist People's Party.

Vuksan Simonovic: Well, of course, it was known. How could have it been otherwise?

Zeljko Sturanovic: Why, then, you did not inform Montenegro's citizens about that?

Vuksan Simonovic: The citizens of Montenegro were informed when we were summoned for the parliamentary session..... You could have gone to Belgrade to take part in it, and, according to your political views, to vote against the constitutional changes. That would be democratic....

Zeljko Sturanovic: It is absolutely clear that all these constitutional changes were made as a result of a political deal between [Milosevic's] Socialist Party of Serbia and [Mira Markovic's] Yugoslav Left, on the one side, and [Vojislav Seselj's] Serbian Radical Party on the other. And it is clear that you accepted it.

You know that the Serbian Radical Party has insisted for a long time that the deputies in the Upper House be directly elected. This is set down in their political program, which foresees a unitary state with "one president, one parliament, and one government."

It is well known as well that the Socialist Party of Serbia wants the direct election of the president, for a reason that we have already mentioned. Therefore, what we have here is a political deal between the coalition partners: "you accept my proposal and I will accept yours." That deal would not be so tragic if Montenegro and its national interests were not at stake.

Vuksan Simonovic: They are not at stake and they never will be. You can be sure that the Socialist People's Party will never allow it.

Zeljko Sturanovic: You have allowed it with these constitutional changes....

Omer Karabeg: Top officials of the two parties--Mr. Predrag Bulatovic of the Socialist People's Party and Svetozar Marovic of the Democratic Party of Socialists--recently called for a dialogue in order to lower the tensions that could, as some think, lead to a civil war. Is there a chance for such a dialogue?

Vuksan Simonovic: ...You, from the [Podgorica] regime, Mr. Sturanovic, have been turning a deaf ear to all our public proposals. You made some important political decisions without a dialogue with the Socialist People's Party. One of them is your platform for the redefinition of the relations between Montenegro and Serbia, which you adopted a year ago and which never appeared before the Montenegrin parliament.

Therefore, the vice president of our party, Predrag Bulatovic, recently called for a dialogue in order to prevent a further worsening of the political situation.... We, as the two most powerful political parties should sit down and define minimal common points regarding some essential political issues (see "RFE/RL Newsline," 18 August 2000). Other political forces in Montenegro--such as the Liberal Alliance, the People's Party, and the Social Democratic Party, as well as the representatives of the Albanian parties, etc.--should then join us in order to preserve the interests of Montenegro and peace.

Zeljko Sturanovic: I am so happy to hear that you want dialogue, too. However, does it seem logical to you that your call for a dialogue--which is absolutely welcome in our party--came after the constitutional changes? You say that top officials of your party were familiar with the preparations for the constitutional changes. Why, then, did you not call us to talk about these constitutional changes and maybe find common ground? These things should be discussed together with other political parties in Montenegro, too.

Vuksan Simonovic: Our official invitation was sent to you on 7 September 1999, when our party issued a clear declaration and called on you to sit down with us and talk--as the two most powerful political forces in Montenegro--in order to find a solution to the crisis. That was long before the constitutional changes.

Zeljko Sturanovic: You complain that you still do not have an official invitation from our party for a dialogue, but the document you have just mentioned is not an official call by your party for talks. In any event, this call did not mention that the upcoming constitutional changes would be discussed.

Vuksan Simonovic: The vice president of our party, Mr. Predrag Bulatovic, said what he said. Now, it is up to you to show whether you want a dialogue or not.

Zeljko Sturanovic: The call by Vice President Bulatovic is not an official one. But I think that we can agree that it is a matter of formalities, and that the most important thing here is that the dialogue starts.

We from the Democratic Party of Socialists are very interested in a dialogue with representatives of all the political forces in Montenegro and Yugoslavia. Let me remind you that we had talks with representatives of the political parties from the ruling coalition in Serbia last year. Recently, we had similar talks with representatives of the opposition parties in Serbia. It shows that the Democratic Party of Socialists is a party that wants dialogue, a party that considers that some of the present or permanent political differences should not be an obstacle to an open and responsible political dialogue.

....We have good will, and it remains to be seen whether the other side has it, too. After what I have just heard Mr. Simonovic say, I am optimistic.

Omer Karabeg: That means that there is good will on both sides, so let us hope that an official dialogue can start soon. Can we close this conversation with these words?

Vuksan Simonovic: Mr. Karabeg, let tonight's conversation between me and Mr. Sturanovic become a sort of a preview for when the Democratic Party of Socialists, hopefully, invites us to a dialogue.

Omer Karabeg: If tonight's conversation means the beginning of a dialogue, then I am happy that it took place in a Radio Free Europe program.