Montenegro: Ramming Speed

So Montenegro votes this weekend on secession from Serbia. (Or, to be precise, secession from the dysfunctional and largely notional Federal Union of Serbia and Montenegro.)

Dedicated readers may recall that this vote was the subject of AFOE’s first intra-blog debate a few weeks back. My post on Montenegrin independence can be found here; Brussels Gonzo’s response to it is here; and my reply to his response is over here.

But it’s up to the people of Montenegro now.

Polls in this part of the world tend to be rather shaky, but right now it looks like support for independence is hovering tantalizingly between 50% and 55% — the so called “gray zone”. If we end up with a clear majority of votes in favor of independence, but one that still falls short of the 55% supermajority… well, things will get interesting.

A couple of notes on the campaign, below the fold.

— Despite some beatings, a few shots fired, and a lot of hot air, the campaign has been tolerably peaceful by Balkan standards. Nobdy has been killed, and it doesn’t look like anyone will be scared away from the polls.

— Both sides have stated (somewhat grudgingly) that they will accept the outcome, even if it goes against them.

— Neither side has covered itself with glory. Long-time readers of this blog already know my opinion of Montenegrin PM Djukanovic; I think he’s an amoral opportunist who is gunning for independence in large part to keep himself in power. That said, the pro-Union opposition isn’t exactly a band of plucky democrats; they’re dominated by Serb nationalists, many of whom used to be fellow travellers with Milosevic.

— The pro-independence movment was lagging in the polls until recently. However, it may have received a shot in the arm when the EU announced that it was suspending membership talks with Belgrade (thanks to the Serbs’ continued inability to find indicted war criminal Ratko Mladic). Djukanovic has been able to argue that Montenegro will have a faster path to EU membership if it’s not chained to Serbia. And who knows? He might even be right.

— President Kostunica of Serbia has not played a constructive role; he announced that Montenegrins in Serbia (and there are a lot of them) would “become foreigners” if the vote passes. This is in sharp contrast to Djukanovic, who has gone out of his way to assure Serbs in Montenegro that they’ll still be able to live and work, will not pay any new taxes, etc. Of course, that’s easy for Djukanovic to say; there are a lot more Montenegrins in Serbia than vice versa. Still, Kostunica has come across as making clumsy threats, and it probably hasn’t helped the cause of union much.

The last polls showed support for secession at just under 50%. But, again, polling in the Balkans is still more art than science. So this one could still plausibly go in any of three directions — a clear win for union, a victory for secssion, or a “gray zone” minority win, with union getting less than 50% but secession not reaching 55%.

We’ll know in 48 hours.

5 thoughts on “Montenegro: Ramming Speed

  1. Short by 55% but whats the reason behind that.Support for independence should be 100%. Why so much of shakyness!
    Its hard to understand!

  2. I’ve heard rumors that Djukanovic plans to leave office within a year, however the vote goes. Can anyone confirm or deny?

  3. “President Kostunica of Serbia has not played a constructive role; he announced that Montenegrins in Serbia (and there are a lot of them) would “become foreigners” if the vote passes. This is in sharp contrast to Djukanovic, who has gone out of his way to assure Serbs in Montenegro that they’ll still be able to live and work, will not pay any new taxes, etc. Of course, that’s easy for Djukanovic to say; there are a lot more Montenegrins in Serbia than vice versa. Still, Kostunica has come across as making clumsy threats, and it probably hasn’t helped the cause of union much.”

    You’ve missed the point here. Serbs in Montenegro are autochtonous and as such have Montenegrin citizenship. The main difference between a “Serb” and a “Montenegrin” in Montenegro is personal opinion. MiloÅ¡ević, from a Montenegrin family, considered himself a Serb, whereas his brother considered himself a Montenegrin. On the other hand, when KoÅ¡tunica talks about Montenegrins in Serbia, he’s talking about immigrants who hold Montenegrin citizenship, not about their ethnicity. If he was talking about people of Montenegrin descent, he could be talking about the majority of Serbians…

  4. Also, forgot to mention, while it’s true that many (though by no means all) opposition figures were not exactly anti-MiloÅ¡ević, Đukanović has been in power for the past 15 years, spouting rubbish such as “MiloÅ¡ević is the best thing that could have happened to Yugoslavia at this moment in time”, “I’ve grown to hate chess because of [the Croatian flag’s resemblance to a chess board]”, referring to all Croats as “UstaÅ¡e” (it’s like calling all Germans Nazis) etc etc

  5. Those 200,000 Montenegrins in Serbia are not allowed to vote, by the way. Meanwhile, 10,000 from the “diaspora” in Western countries are being flown in to vote “yes”. So the referendum rules say that only Montenegrins living in Serbia are not allowed to vote. This is hardly fair. Either your principle is that only those on the territory can vote, or everyone from outside can vote. Djukanovic is being crookedly selective, as usual.

    As for those people becoming “foreigners”, Kostunica is correct. He is right to use this leverage to remind people that there is a price to pay for a yes vote, as Djukanovic is brandishing US aid and the EU to get his way. The EU of course chose to bring up Ratko Mladic at this inopportune time. They didn’t have to.

    There are as many rumours of Karadzic hiding in Montenegro as there are rumours of Mladic hiding in Serbia. Why not harp on that and demand that Djukanovic hand him over?

    Djukanovic’s rhetoric is extremely anti-Serb, unnecessarily so. He is repeating the talking points of the worst Serb-haters, all this about blaming the ills of the region on this supposed Greater Serbia quest, how this will be the last battle to defeat Greater Serbia, that Serbia has not learned the lesson inflicted on it by NATO, etc.

    There are many people there I would say who might be sympathetic to having a Montenegro in the UN who would be offended by such talk and the positioning of an independent Montenegro as a hostile country in league with the KLA and Greater Albania forces as well as the Bosnian Muslims who are in the process of trying to sue Serbia into bankruptcy while spouting off on their supposed victimhood.

    The Albanians covet Montenegro for their own and with that territory’s population being 600,000 and with the growth in Albanian demography, one has to wonder about its future following a possible yes vote.

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