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.