Municipal election results split but fair
Preliminary results from the hotly contested and highly anticipated municipal elections in Podgorica and Herceg Novi last Sunday showed a near-even split between the "For a Better Life" coalition backing President Milo Đukanović and the "For Yugoslavia" faction backed by Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević.
Preliminary results released Monday showed For a Better Life taking Podgorica with 28 of 54 seats, while the For Yugoslavia coalition looked poised to take Herceg Novi with 19 of 35 seats.
Đukanović said Monday that the victory in Podgorica was "much more important" than the defeat in Herceg Novi, noting that "Podgirica is a victory for democratic and pro-European Montenegro, [which] now stands firm on the path toward democracy and reform."
Although Predrag Bulatović, deputy president of the Milošević-backed Montenegrin Socialist People's Party, described the elections in Podgorica as "irregular and non-democratic," Đukanović said the elections had been free and fair, an assertion backed by international monitoring groups.
Julian Yeats, Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) chief of mission in Podgorica, said the elections were "a great improvement compared to the elections of 1998," adding that "almost all media did their job professionally, and voters had the opportunity to form fair opinion."
For his part, Council of Europe delegation head Claude Casagrande said that the elections "were conducted in a peaceful atmosphere and were free and fair."
The For a Better Life coalition said that the ruling coalition's defeat in Herceg Novi would occasion a strategy review. Coalition member and newly elected Podgorica mayor Miomir Mugoša said "we need to analyze carefully our defeat in Herceg Novi, because many Serb refugees from Bosnia have arrived there over the past eight years."
"That is a reason for concern," he said, "[because] I think they were unfair to the state of Montenegro, the state that gave them places to stay and jobs. They have given their votes to the man who destroyed Bosnia and caused them to have to leave their homes."
The election results were welcomed by officials in the United States and the European Union. US State Department spokesman Philip Reeker said the elections were a "model" for neighboring Serbia, noting that "these elections mark an important step forward in the development of democracy in Montenegro ... and their successful conduct renews our hope that all of Yugoslavia will soon enjoy the freedom and protection of basic human rights enjoyed by the people of Montenegro."
Reeker added that "we will continue to work with democratic forces in Montenegro and to support Montenegro."
The EU Council of Ministers, meanwhile, said they would continue their support for the "democratic Montenegrin government," and condemned what it said were attempts by the Belgrade regime to undercut the development of democracy in the smaller Yugoslav republic.
On a related note, Sociality People's Party Deputy President Bulatović was slightly injured in a car accident in Podgorica Thursday, Radio B2-92 reported.
Attempt on Drašković's life
Vuk Drašković, controversial president of the Serbian Renewal Movement (SPO), was said to be recovering well from injuries he sustained during an attempted assassination just after midnight Thursday at his coastal retreat home in Budva, Montenegro, approximately 25 miles southwest of Podgorica.
The Podgorica daily Pobjeda reported that three assailants fired at least five rounds at Drašković, wounding him at his left temple and his right ear, while international media speculated that "many rounds from automatic weapons" had been fired, noting that his house was "riddled" with bullet holes.
Drašković was given emergency first aid after apparently escaping his home through a back door, and was then rushed to a local hospital. According to Ognjen Pribičević, a top advisor to the SPO leader, Drašković was released from hospital an hour and a half later and was "resting comfortably" at an undisclosed location.
Pribičević said Drašković was watching television when the attack occurred, although although Budva police officials said that Drašković was leaving his flat when the gunmen opened fire from the terrace of his home.
The attack came despite heavy security that was to have been provided by Montenegrin police in the wake of the arrest of Drašković's personal security detail following his return from a visit to Russia May 31.
Montenegrin police have cordoned off all avenues into and out of town, and announced early Friday afternoon that they had detained "several persons" in connection with the attempted assassination.
The Friday morning assault was the second apparent attempt on Drašković's life. On 3 October 1999, an unknown assailant slammed into his motorcade, killing four persons including his brother-in-law, who was one of his top advisors. While Drašković claimed the incident to have been an attempt on his life by forces close to President Slobodan Milošević, a regime investigation claimed it had been an accident, although several questions surrounding the affair remain unsolved.
Yugoslav army on the move
At least 20 armoured Yugoslav Army (VJ) military police vehicles were engaged in maneuvers near Tuzi on the Montenegrin-Albanian border this week, provoking concerns among both the region's largely ethnic-Albanian residents and the Đukanović government, although the VJ had announced some time ago that the exercises would follow last weekend's local elections.
Vujanović: Slobo wants to prolong rule
Prime Minister Filip Vujanović said this week that Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević is planning amendments to the federal constitution allowing him to prolong his rule, adding that while Montenegro would oppose the move, he did not necessarily feel that such an amendment would prompt Montenegrin separation.
"Neither Montenegro nor international community would accept any new Constitution that would allow Milošević to manipulate Montenegro, but I am sure that Montenegro has enough patience to wait for democratization of Serbia," he said.
Foreign trade and customs no longer federal responsibility?
Montenegrin Vice President Ljubiša Krgović said Thursday that the government had adopted four measures that placed foreign trade and customs control under local jurisdiction, saying that "since the [Yugoslav federal] government decided not to respect our interests in these fields, we made a decision that will enable us to control foreign trade and customs affairs." No response from federal authorities was available at press time.
Germany to support reforms to tune of DEM 140 million
Jusuf Kalamperović and Vlado Mitrović, ministers of Transport and Tourism respectively, met Thursday with a German delegation that promised support for nearly DEM 140 million in Stability Pact projects for Montenegro. The move, which came as the government released a statement saying it was looking for "alternate ways" to become full members of the Pact and was interested in signing a special association agreement with the EU, was formalized with a protocol on cooperation signed by the two delegations.
Del Ponte to Podgorica?
According to the daily Vijesti, Carla del Ponte, chief prosecutor for the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia, will visit Podgorica and other points in Montenegro next week at the invitation of the Đukanović government. ICTY deputy prosecutor Graham Bluit said the visit, del Ponte's first to Podgorica, would be "important because of a number of investigations that are in progress. It also shows," he added, "that we have very good cooperation with the Montenegrin leadership."
Central Europe Review is pleased to announce its new partnership with the independent Crna Gora Medija Klub. Beginning with this week's report, CER readers will have access to independent, high quality news from Serbia and Montenegro based on Medija Klub reports and additional updates by CER staff.
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