Montenegro's Local Elections: Testing the National Temperature
Montenegro's Local Elections: Testing the National Temperature
Table of Contents
  1. Overview
Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo
Table of Contents
  1. Overview

Montenegro's Local Elections: Testing the National Temperature

Local elections are to be held in Podgorica and Herceg-Novi, two of Montenegro's 21 municipalities, on 11 June 2000.

I. Overview

Local elections are to be held in Podgorica and Herceg-Novi, two of Montenegro's 21 municipalities, on 11 June 2000. Their significance is wider than the simple question of who governs the two local authorities, for these will be the first elections in Montenegro since the victory of the "For a Better Life" coalition (DZB) under president Milo Djukanovic in general elections in May 1998. For this reason the results will be widely interpreted as a comment on the performance of Djukanovic so far, and a barometer of the political mood in the republic as a whole.

The government did not want to hold these elections at this time. They were caused deliberately by the pro-independence Liberal Alliance (LSCG), who broke off 1998 local coalition agreements with the DZB in September 1999. The significance of these two localities is that they are the only places in Montenegro where the LSCG hold the balance of power. In most other municipalities either the DZB governs alone (11) or the Socialist People's Party (SNP) governs alone (4) or with allies (2). Exceptions are Ulcinj, where the Albanian parties  Democratic Union of Albanians (DUA) and Democratic Alliance (DS) hold most of the seats, and Plav where the DZB is strongest but Bosniak and Albanian parties hold the balance.

The Liberals gave as the reason for breaking off the coalitions that they were unhappy with the way the DZB was running the municipalities, that pre-election claims had not been honoured. But they also felt - and it is universally believed that this was the real reason for forcing the elections - that the cause of Montenegrin independence was gaining public support, and that the Liberals' poll ratings were recovering from a bad result in 1998 - this is in essence the "change of public mood" referred to by LSCG leaders. The Liberals assert that there is  little to choose between the two main opposing blocks in Montenegrin politics (DZB/SNP), and that a strong LSCG is the best guarantee of honest and principled government. So the LSCG hopes that a good result for them will put pressure on the government to move faster towards the long-mooted referendum on Montenegro's status, but also bring better, more open government at all levels. Still, with no chance of winning their best hope this time is to re-enter coalitions with the DZB, but from a position of increased strength and influence.

For the government, it will be useful if it can gain enough votes to govern the two municipalities without the LSCG. But its main need is to show that the support they it gained in 1998 is holding up. Politically DZB does not need to win either Podgorica or Herceg-Novi outright, since the Liberals have made it clear they will not work with the SNP, but it does need to be able to show that in the republic as a whole support for the reformist, internationalist course the DZB has followed is not crumbling.

For the pro-Yugoslavia SNP the stakes are higher still.S The government only needs to hold on to the level of support it already has, but the SNP must do better than in 1998. Victory in either election would strengthen the party's claim that its true support is much higher than published polls suggest, and that the government does not enjoy the support of a majority of voters.  It would also  give the SNP for the first time a municipality in the southern part of the country, important symbolically to show that their support is not confined to the highlands. Herceg-Novi looks the easier target, but Podgorica is the bigger prize: an SNP victory there would be a major embarrassment to the government. Even a close failure in Podgorica coupled with victory in Herceg-Novi would give the party a platform from which to call insistently for early general elections.[fn]The SNP's Predrag Bulatovic appeared to talk down expectations to this level by saying that any improvement on 1998's result would be a basis for calling for an early general election - 1/ijesti 20  May 2000. The SNP's own paper Dan, reporting the same press conference, did not mention this.
 Hide Footnote
 But clear  defeat in both places would demonstrate that voters still have faith in Djukanovic, that the pro-Yugoslavia and pro-Milosevic message is not gaining support.

European Union (EU) support for Djukanovic could hardly be clearer: commenting on a new package of EU aid on 8 May 2000, the EU's head of Foreign and  Security Policy Javier Solana called it an "excellent decision, bearing in mind important  elections  in  Montenegro in June."[fn]All local media, 9 May 2000, quoting Beta news agency.Hide Footnote EU  Commissioner Chris Patten made a high-profile visit to Podgorica on 15 May. Americans by contrast have been keeping quiet and out of sight, but no-one doubts their support for Djukanovic.

Electoral procedures give a slight advantage to coalitions over friendly parties running separately.[fn] Pre-election coalitions function as a single party, but if no one list wins enough seats to govern outright there can be post-election coalitions or alliances. Whoever can command most votes in the municipal council becomes mayor, usually but not necessarily the head of the list which received most votes. The head of the party list carries an important responsibility as, in effect, the leader and public face of that party's campaign. But, as in other list systems, the head of the winning list is not obliged to become mayor; having won the election he can hand over the responsibility to a colleague. Thus the election campaign does not automatically determine who will become mayor, but it does determine the balance of forces in the municipal council, which in turn elects the mayor.

Podgorica/Washington/Brussels, 26 May 2000

Thessaloniki and After (III) The EU, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.

I. Overview

Since the fall of the regime of Slobodan Milosevic in October 2000, the steady normalisation of Serbia's relations with the international community has significantly enhanced the prospects for long-term peace and stability. The European Union (EU) rose to the challenge, providing resources for reconstruction and reforms in Serbia itself, as well as in Montenegro and Kosovo.[fn]With the adoption of a new Constitutional Charter in February 2003, Serbia and Montenegro redefined their relationship as a loose State Union of Serbia and Montenegro, replacing the former, defunct Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (FRY). Under UN Security Council Resolution 1244, Kosovo remains legally a part of this state, as successor to the FRY, although under UN supervision.Hide Footnote As part of this assistance effort, it included the three entities in the Stabilisation and Association process (SAp) that it established to build security in the Western Balkans and open perspectives for eventual membership.[fn]The Western Balkan countries covered by the SAp are, in addition to Serbia and Montenegro, Croatia, Bosnia, Macedonia and Albania.Hide Footnote

As far as Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo are concerned, however, Thessaloniki is likely to produce only limited results and not advance long-term stability unless it is harnessed to a clear political agenda to resolve outstanding post-conflict issues and set all three entities firmly on the path of EU integration. For this to happen, the EU must address the status of Kosovo without too much delay. It already plays the key role in promoting the province’s economic development, through both the resources it devotes and its leadership of the economic pillar of the UN administration. Amid widespread calls for it to take on an even greater role, it cannot afford to endanger its substantial political and financial investment because of unreadiness to tackle the underlying causes of instability. The EU should also be ready to help Serbia and Montenegro resolve their relationship in a mutually acceptable way, so that both republics can finally move past the endless debates over statehood that have dominated political life since Milosevic's fall.

In this briefing paper, our basic conclusions with regard to the EU and the SAp are:

  • The EU should maintain its assistance at levels commensurate with the seriousness of the challenges facing Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo provided that they achieve clear, realistic benchmarks along a roadmap whose destination is EU membership.
     
  • The SAp should be adjusted so as to address the specific circumstances in Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo more flexibly, in particular through creative use of the new European Partnerships which will be drawn up with each country.

With regard to Kosovo,

  • The EU should prepare to address the issue of Kosovo’s final status, first of all by reaching a common understanding among its member states on their goals.
     
  • Using the European Agency for Reconstruction and in direct liaison with the Provisional Institutions of Self-Government, the EU should develop an integrated approach to delivering targeted assistance, establishing benchmarks and assessing progress on carrying out reforms in line with EU standards.

Belgrade/Podgorica/Pristina/Brussels, 20 June 2003

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