Issue No. 292 - October 15, 2002
1. Bosnia and Herzegovina: RETURN OF THE NEO-MODERATE
by Radenko Udovicic
2. FRY/Montenegro: A GAME WITH HUGE STAKES:
Interview with Srdjan Darmanovic
by Stojan Obradovic
3. Azerbaijan: NEW DEVELOPMENTS MAY DESTROY ALIEV'S
by Farhad Mammadov
Another general election — the seventh since the end of the war — is now over in Bosnia. The frequency of elections is due to the wish of international community to find the optimal means of overcoming many national and economic problems resulting from the quick changes in governments. It seems that both national and economic problems are unsolvable for the international community itself, despite its protectorship over Bosnia.
Low turnout indicates that citizens are tired of the almost non-stop elections over these seven years. For these elections, voter turnout was just 51 percent in the Serb Republic and 54 percent in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Significantly, young people abstained completely from voting. Numerous TV reports showed dozens of older voters standing in lines. According to elections officials, 75 percent of voters were older than 40 years of age. Only 10 percent of young people who became eligible to vote in the past two years since the last national elections even registered. The frequency of campaigns and the empty promises made by the same politicians and parties has caused a high degree of apathy.
As to the election results themselves, the so-called hard-line nationalist parties won in the Federation BiH. In the Serb Republic, the nationalist Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), remained the most popular, but large strides were made by the Party of Independent Social-Democrats (SNSD) from the former reformist government.
These elections are the first in which MPs and members of the presidency will have a full four-year term (until now, terms were for only two years). Equally important, these elections are laying the foundation for a new federal Bosnia and Herzegovina based on the equality of all three nations living throughout its territory. A strict principle of national representation within each of the entities' governments was introduced. Thus, regardless of the election results, the government of the Serb Republic will have just 8 Serbs out of 16 total ministers. In the Federation government, 7 ministers will be Bosniaks, 5 Croats, 3 Serbs, and one from the ranks of “others.” This will prevent one nation from having more than 50 percent representation at the highest level of government and thus should lead to fewer decisions based on radical nationalist principles since the national majority in each entity must secure the support of at least one other minister from another national group in order to pass any decision.
In addition to representatives of the national state and “entity” parliaments, citizens also voted for members of the Bosnian Presidency (the three-person head of state) as well as the president of the Serb Republic.
Members of nationalist parties won all three seats to the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Croatian member, Dragan Covic, is from the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ); the Serbian member is Mirko Sarovic from the SDS; and Sulejman Tihic from the former ruling Party of Democratic Action won a close race against Haris Silajdzic of the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina to become the Bosniak member of Presidency by just a 2,000-vote margin. The new, separate president of the Serb Republic is Dragan Covic from the SDS.
For the unified state Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the SDA won 32 per cent of the vote for the Federation members, followed by the HDZ, the Social-Democratic Party (SDP), and the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina each with almost the same percentage of votes. Other parties didn't cross the election threshold. From the Serb Republic, the SDS won 37 percent of the vote, leading the SNSD with 24.8 percent and the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) at 11.3 percent. Similar numbers were received for each of the entities' parliaments (that of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and that of the Serb Republic).
In the Federation BiH, there has been a flattening of the political spectrum. The New Croatian Initiative, the Liberal Party, and the Civil Democratic Party, which previously had just gotten over the threshold and participated in power in both the SDA and last SDP governments, failed to win any seats in parliament. Some analysts believe this is a “punishment” of those parties for changing direction and trying to court voters from nationalist parties and accusing the SDP for not protecting Bosniak national interests. Meanwhile, the Serbian Radical Party, the Socialist Party, and the Democratic People's Alliance managed to “squeeze into” the parliament with the bare 3 percent minimum.
The U.N. High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Paddy Ashdown, said that current governments in both entities had not done enough and had been punished at the voting booth for it. He added that he didn't consider that Bosnia made a step backwards and expressed hope that the reform process would continue.
But the decline in popularity of the ruling coalition in the Federation BiH, “Alliance for Change,” was not due to lack of serious reforms. On the contrary, the Alliance cooperated with the PDP on the state level, strengthening federal state institutions, at least for a while. As a result of the Alliance’s systematic passage of state laws, Bosnia became a member of the Council of Europe. Tax income almost doubled, which brought stability to public institutions and added infrastructure in major cities. There was even an increase of wages and a drop in unemployment rate. However, the ruling coalition wasn't paying enough attention to the fact that national sentiment in Bosnia was still very strong. The Bosniak SDA (Party of Democratic Action) played the electoral card of “national betrayal,” managing to persuade a great number of Bosniaks that the Alliance, and especially the Social Democratic Party, was carrying out a dangerous politics for Bosniaks by acting as servants of the West and backing off pressure on Serbs and Croats in Bosnia. The Yugoslav president Vojislav Kostunica also contributed to strengthening of national option both in the Federation and the Serb Republic when he stated at an election rally of his party that the “Serb Republic is temporarily separated from Serbia.” Nationalist Bosniak parties used this statement for fierce attacks on the Yugoslav authorities, accusing them of having the same goals as the Slobodan Milosevic regime of building a greater Serbia. Parties in the Serb Republic, especially extremely nationalistic ones, used this reaction of Bosniak parties to prove that Bosniaks only aimed at getting rid of the Serbian entity.
Although Kostunica later explained that his statement was not related to any change of borders but to the strengthening of economic and cultural ties between Serbian people, the national issue, silent at the beginning of the election campaign, flared. Accusations were made about who did what during the war, whether there was genocide and who committed it, and so on . . . . An especially sensitive issue is the Bosnian constitution. Many Bosniak parties demanded that the Serb Republic be eliminated on the grounds that Bosniaks and Croats should be equal to Serbs in that entity. The Serbian response as that entities should give the lowest possible authority to he central government because, it was claimed, Bosniaks wanted to realize their unitarian goal. Appealing to voters on such nationalist issues, it is clear, led many people to rally to hard-line nationalist parties.
Among Croats, the HDZ swept away everyone in its path and became the sole Croatian party in the Bosnian parliament. A large majority of Croats rejected the participation of the small Croatian parties in the last government — without much voters' support — as a result of election tweaking. In the last elections, the HDZ had won 70 percent of the Croatian vote, but was “pushed out” of power by the minor Croatian parties who entered the ruling coalition, thus satisfying Croat national representation.
In the Serb Republic, the Party of Independent Social-Democrats (SNSD) doubled its vote from the last elections lies based on the success by its president, Milorad Dodik, in gathering capable politicians and economists who successfully balanced between nationalism and the need for all-round cooperation for economic progress.
Although it seemed, before elections, that the international community would not give its support to the war triangle of SDA-HDZ-SDS, and that Bosnia would find itself in isolation, it appears that at this time the governments will be formed with much less pressure. High Representative Paddy Ashdown said that he did not see the victory of nationalist parties as a step backwards and reminded everyone that this was not 1991. He stressed that the government and the political parties in it would be judged by their actions and not by their names, which was interpreted in Bosnia as a readiness to accept the SDS as a partner. In fact, Ashdown's remark was based on the fact that all three national parties at a certain point during the election campaign made a radical turn, when everyone watching saw that they were trying not to offend anyone.
After the elections, SDS president Dragan Kalinic mentioned the name of Bosnia and Herzegovina more times than during the whole war and post-war years taken together. He emphasized that the victory of nationalist parties in all the country meant a new period for Bosnia and that it can expect real progress. The HDZ expressed a similar opinion, and its new B-H Presidency member, Dragan Covic, announced exceptional cooperation within the collective head of state.
At the same time, the High Commissioner warned that after the elections, the Guardian newspaper in the U.K. ran a big headline: “Return of Nationalists in Bosnia is a Threat to Reform.” Ashdown asked the future authorities to fulfill six international conditions after six months of rule in order for Bosnia to function better as a state. The first condition is strengthening of the central government with a prime minister and three minister positions, instead of rotating prime ministers every six months, as is the case now, without any clear responsibility and authority established. Second is introduction of a tax on added value at a state level. Third is establishment of parliamentary commissions that will work as “safeguards” of politicians' ethics. Fourth is reform of the tax system; fifth is creation of a state-level court dealing with extreme and economic crime (the judicial system functions only at the entity level). And finally, creation of a system of civil service based on merit and not political or national affiliation. All parliamentary parties generally promised to fulfill the reforms. The Serb Republic parties still have their reservations about introducing a value-added state-level tax and strengthening central government because they think it is contrary to the Dayton Accord. However, they will not have a choice but to accept all international demands in the end. The SNSD already announced it would accept all demands if it got the chance to form the government because it didn't consider them damaging to the Serbian nation.
No one will be able to rule on his own in Bosnia so that there are already speculations about future coalitions. The election results for SDS and HDZ would allow them to form a majority coalition in the federal parliament should they choose to. Hasan Muratovic, head of the SDA’s election office, said that his party was also open for cooperation with the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina even if the minority government made out of experts should the need arise. There are more combinations in Serb Republic and it could happen that SDS, although the strongest individual party could be left out of power. It is mostly due to the success of SNSD, which could form government with the PDP and two more parliamentary parties in the Serb Republic. Having this in mind, Dragan Kalinic already offered an alliance government for the Serb Republic of all parliamentary Serbian parties. However, Milorad Dodik immediately rejected the possibility, saying it was “impossible to cooperate successfully with SDS” and that such a huge coalition would be counter-productive. At the same time, he offered a coalition to Mladen Ivanic and the PDP, which had been expected by many. Ivanic said that the offer would be considered, but that there were two many heavy words between the two parties for an alliance to be made easily. While it is true that during the election campaign the SNSD criticized and even insulted the PDP more so than the SDS, the platforms of the two parties, especially regarding global issues and the readiness to cooperate with the international community and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, make this alliance logical.
At the state-level government, many see the SNSD as a very acceptable partner both for the international community and Federation parties. SDA is already calculating that it will have partners in state government in the PDP and SNSD. Still, it is a question how will SNSD respond to SDA, since SNSD officials consider SDA to be as unacceptable as SDS. Still, the exceptional results of the Bosniak parties allow for a minimum of possibilities for party maneuvering.
It is unanimously considered
that these elections will not bring radical changes to Bosnia because the
international community still has a firm grip over the country, especially
through the institution of the High Representative. Neither party will
be able to insist on its wishes, at least not in public.
• • •
On Sunday, October 20, Montenegro will hold parliamentary elections as part of a hard political struggle between a reform, pro-western, and pro-independence coalition led by the current Montenegrin president, Milo Djukanovic, and his Democratic Socialists' Party (DPS) and, on the other side, the pro-Serbian bloc “For Yugoslavia” that until October 2000 was tied to Slobodan Milosevic.
Elections come at a time when the new temporary state of Montenegro and Serbia should come into being to replace the current Federal Republic of Yugoslavia. It is also a time when the political situation in some countries of former Yugoslavia show a resurgence of right-wing, nationalist political options. NIJ interviewed Srdjan Darmanovic, president of Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM), one of the most prominent think tanks in Montenegro, about the upcoming elections and the overall political situation in Montenegro.
What do these elections mean for Montenegro? Will they in any way influence its political future?
Montenegro, unfortunately, still belongs to a type of country where each election is “historic,” deciding much more than what administration will rule the country during the next four years. The reason is that Montenegro is actually a divided country and nation according to fundamental issues and values, like for example the issue of its state status, will it be independent or in a joint state with Serbia. The most important political forces are grouped around that issue, as well as around support or opposition to Milosevic's regime. That division exists until today. President Djukanovic leads a pro-independence and pro-western coalition that is responsible for a successful resistance to Milosevic's regime, but with meager results in the area of permanent reforms. His possible victory at parliamentary elections would guarantee a politics of continuity and probable continuation of quicker or slower course of reforms. On the other side is the coalition of pro-Serbian forces. Their struggle for joint state with Serbia is the least problematic of their issues. The idea of a joint country is as legitimate an idea as that of independence. Such a debate is being held in many European and other countries. More importantly, the latter coalition embodies an extremely conservative package of ideas and views of society, based on Serbian nationalism and Orthodox religion, although interspersed with leftist populist demagogy.
This pro-Serbian coalition got an unexpected political ally in the Liberal Alliance, a pro-independence party that came to the absurd idea of joining forces with pro-Serbian parties in order to punish Djukanovic for signing the so-called Belgrade Agreement (which was signed under pressure of the EU in the spring, setting the principles of a new state alliance of Serbia and Montenegro that will replace today's federal Yugoslavia). The new coalition, “For Yugoslavia,” and Liberal Alliance had a one vote majority over government parties in parliament during the summer leading to elections and this coalition managed to create a substantial chaos over election and media laws, forcing the OSCE and American ambassadors to intervene.
In short, it would be good if there were fresh and modern political forces in Montenegro that could break through the infighting between the two existing blocs and put some new dynamics into the political scene. But that is not possible at the moment. We are left with the fact that a victory of Djukanovic's coalition would keep a steady pro-western course for Montenegrin politics, while the victory of his opponents means a return of Serbian nationalism to power in Montenegro. Inclusion of the Liberal Alliance in the government does not change this division. The internal authoritarian structure of that party is only adding an additional negative element in the government formed by pro-Serbian parties.
Will the election bring a deeper political division between those who are in favor of a speedy road of Montenegro towards independence and those who support some kind of firm tie with Serbia?
This question is off the agenda for the next three years. The constitutional basis of the new Serbia and Montenegro will soon be passed. The rules are mostly laid out. The new state community is a loose confederation with the real power concentrated in each of the two republics. Joint institutions will more or less have a coordinating character and will represent the country at the international level. There are other issues dominating the election campaign. However, that did not lessen the political division between two main political blocs, so the stakes are rather high. But I think the elections themselves will pass without incidents.
Is there a fear of victory by pro-Serbian and pro-Milosevic political forces in Montenegro that could stop the process of political transformation and destabilize the country, and even the whole region?
I do not think that the victory of the coalition “For Yugoslavia” and Liberal Alliance would have a major negative influence on the region because Montenegro is too small country, for one, so that the election results cannot have such a big importance. However, problems in Montenegro would be evident. The coalition “For Yugoslavia” has already proven at a federal level that it lacks competent members, while the Liberal Alliance is opposed by almost all media in Montenegro, as well as by most NGOs and intellectuals. They have created antagonism among all these groups by accusing them of siding with Djukanovic. As a result, one could say that a ruling alliance made out of pro-Serbian parties and Liberals would find itself at odds with the most prosperous layers of Montenegrin society. The same happened to the DPS at the beginning of the ‘90s, when this party was pro-Milosevic.
How do presidential elections in Serbia affect situation in Montenegro?
I would say that there is not a considerable influence. Of course, elections in Serbia are covered with a great interest, which is understandable, but the outcome of Serbian elections won't have much influence on Montenegrin voters. Besides, these are the first parliamentary elections in Montenegro in the past ten years in which Belgrade is not interfering. Kostunica and Djindjic are occupied with their own problems, and it is also their general attitude that Montenegro should make its own strategic political choices, which isn't only rhetoric. I would say that Serbia is less and less our political problem — true problems are located within Montenegro, among our political forces.
How is the situation in Kosovo reflected onto Montenegro?
What will influence Montenegro in the future is a long-term solution to the issue of final status for Kosovo. EU pressure on Montenegro to drop its referendum on independence at this point was largely motivated by maintaining the regional status quo, by striving to leave the issue of Kosovo alone for some time. As it is really difficult to imagine Kosovo being part of Serbia again, or some Serbian-Montenegrin state community, this reason for opposition to Montenegrin independence will be dropped if Montenegrins decide to opt for an independent state.
Is the international community at this moment ready to support Montenegrin independence if Montenegrin citizens choose such an option?
At this moment, absolutely not. One might even say that the energy and resolution of the EU to prevent a referendum on independence in such a small country that could hardly cause any regional problem was by itself fascinating. The EU got what it wanted — the Belgrade Agreement on establishment of a new community of Serbia and Montenegro — and I think that, although the Agreement provides that both countries can review their status at the end of the third year, the EU will strive more to discourage Montenegro to become independent than to support it. Of course, it will depend on the wider regional context and the weighing of the interests of the USA and EU in this area.
What is the sentiment in Montenegro regarding its independence? Is it a dominant option among the general population or is that idea currently on defensive?
According to all polls taken before signing of Belgrade Agreement, the independence option had a majority, although not an overwhelming one. However, there was no doubt it would have been victorious had a referendum been organized. At least by more of a majority than the Quebec or American presidential elections. I think that Solana's initiative to stop the referendum and make Montenegro sign the Belgrade Agreement was so determined because everybody was aware what the result of a referendum would have been. Taking into account the relative stability of political blocs in Montenegro, I don't think there have been significant changes in that field.
How will a new community of Serbia and Montenegro function? Will that community render the Montenegrin road to independence easier or more difficult?
It is difficult to answer that question at this moment. If that community will function strictly according to the constitutional basis, without attempts to create a “third country” above both Montenegro and Serbia, than it is possible there won't be major problems. Besides, after Milosevic's removal from power, relations between Serbia and Montenegro have been on the rise and even the most complicated issues are nowadays resolved more and more through negotiations. Whether Montenegro will decide to remain in the community after the three years provided by the Agreement is difficult to tell right now. I think that international factors will also play an important role.
What is key for internal democratic development of Montenegro now? What are the priorities for reform?
The Montenegrin parliament passed many reform laws. There were bank and tax reforms, reforms for education, judicial system, police, and local government prepared. However, in general, legislation was always a smaller problem. The much greater problem was the implementation of reforms. Every future government will have to face that problem and translate reform rhetoric into practice.
Has this taxing road of Montenegro towards independence made more difficult its democratization?
Certainly. The unresolved issue of state status is a burden for the process of democratic transition in any country. It absorbs most energy of political parties while people take sides around the issues of national identity or state borders, instead of on the types of reforms. Luckily, in our case state status did not cause a major internal struggle or fighting with Serbia. Had Milosevic survived in power after the elections of September 2000, it could have been possible for Montenegro to be another new crisis area, but fortunately everything ended differently.
After Milosevic's removal from power, the ruling DOS coalition in Serbia was in favour of a joint state, but the possibility of conflict over this issue was definitely rejected.
President Djukanovic has been accused lately of corruption and international smuggling. How does Montenegrin public react to such accusations, are they grounded in reality or are they being issued for political reasons?
There is no one in Montenegro who has not heard about the so-called transit business with tobacco during the ‘90s, at the time of international sanctions. That business filled part of the state budget and even provided for wages and pensions. Similarly, there is no one who doesn't understand that certainly large amounts of money ended up in private hands, as is usual for countries with an unregulated economy. And during the ‘90s, Montenegro was such a state, not only due to its transition process but also because of the war situation. There is no doubt that in one way or another the state was behind such smuggling or at least created or tolerated an atmosphere under which they prospered. But what was then the role of President Djukanovic is hard to say without any concrete evidence. Besides indications and claims presented in various newspapers, no one has presented such evidence. Therefore, I feel that the Montenegrin public is already dismissive of this subject since it has been dragging in newspapers for a long time without new elements or evidence. I cannot resolutely claim that the public campaign against President Djukanovic had political motives. One could say there is some basis for such claims. Certain political circles in Europe didn't pay any attention to this subject at the time when Djukanovic was one of the main figures of the anti-Milosevic coalition, but it was brought into daylight when he opted for independence. It is hard to believe that it is all a coincidence. On the other hand, the investigation against president Djukanovic that is being led by the district attorney in Bari, Italy could really be without political motives. It is probably a simple case of Italian judicial system functioning independently and according to certain automatic procedures in a wider case that it has been dealing with. Besides, Italian Prime Minister Berlusconi was also subjected to various investigation of the Italian justice system.
How is the election campaign going on? We have information of huge pressure on media. What is happening in that area?
The election campaign is more or less normal, with many fierce words from both sides. But, that is usual, especially when parties see the election stakes as so large. Regarding the media, they found themselves in a difficult situation before the elections, because the new parliamentary majority (“For Yugoslavia” coalition and Liberal Alliance) decided to take control over state media, but also to prescribe a strict rule about the behaviour of private media during election campaign. Their intention to control also private media had some extreme decisions that showed a deep misunderstanding of the role and function of media in general, private media in particular. Montenegrin private media, aided by the OSCE, the Council of Europe, the International Journalists' Federation, and the organization “Article 19,” as well as Montenegrin NGOs managed to resist this pressure, but the price was paid by state-controlled media. Instead of urgently passing a set of laws that would turn state media into a public service, as prepared by a parliamentary group and the Council of Europe, the new parliamentary majority decided to postpone introduction of this law until May 1, 2003.
Meanwhile, new editors were
installed in the state-owned media, some of them well known for their war
propaganda from the beginning of 90s. So there is a hard-to-imagine paradox
in Montenegrin political scene — the Liberal Alliance, the most energetic
anti-war party in the first half of the past decade, contributed with its
votes to a return of the spirit its members themselves fought against.
Still, the present situation in state-owned media can be considered only
temporary. The situation will become clearer once winners of the October
20 elections will be known.
• • •
The group of experts at the Turan news agency, distinguished by its independent position, has commented on the successes of the united opposition after the August 24 referendum in its struggle against Aliev's authoritarian regime. The group has noted that the rallies of the opposition, held every 2 to3 weeks since then, have resonated broadly within society and the increased number of participants at these rallies has drawn [the authorities’] attention.
These experts attribute a number of factors to the opposition’s success: consolidation of the leading opposition parties and their leaders; bringing all the parties together in protest actions; joining party activists with active representatives of the electorate dissatisfied with the government; stopping the practice of using the rally rostrums as a mean of self-approval and instead using them as a means of raising people’s consciousness.
According to Turan, four parties are making up the leadership in the struggle against the authoritarian regime through the latest protest actions: Musavat, led by Isa Gambar, the Popular Front of Ali Karimli [“reformers”], the Democrat Party of Rasul Guliev, and National Independence, led by Etibar Mammadov. In this experts’ article, the “series of rallies has shown not only the consolidation of parties at the level of leaders but also of party activists, which helps the mobilization of the electorate dissatisfied in the country.”
The rallies’ success is also attributed to positive tendencies in the activity of the parties and leaders themselves. “At the current stage, opposition leaders are staying outside the pursuit of their personal and party interests for the sake of common goals, the struggle for democracy. Moving away from mutual confrontations has gained them the support of the press and the electorate.”
Turan’s experts think that the ruling elite is seriously concerned about the strengthening of the opposition at the current moment. “On the eve of forthcoming presidential elections, the current development of events may destroy the entire plans of Aliev, as well as plans related with falsifying the elections. Probably, the government will try to create a difference of opinion within the opposition, in particular between the leading parties and leaders.”
In the experts' opinion,
they do not think the government will create diversions among the opposition
or give them profitable suggestions for that purpose. “By overcoming this
test successfully, leading forces of the democratic opposition may deceive
everybody about the stable character of their consolidation and hope to
gain success at the 2003 elections.”
* This article is reprinted from the WEEKLY ANALYTICAL-INFORMATION BULLETIN published by the AZERBAIJAN NATIONAL DEMOCRACY FOUNDATION (ANDF). To receive this e-mail publication directly, please write to firstname.lastname@example.org.