Divided Montenegro Marks Decade of Independence
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Vae Victis


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Divided Montenegro Marks Decade of Independence
Montenegro's parliament holds a special session on Friday marking the tenth anniversary of the day when the former Yugoslav republic quit its loose "state union" with Serbia.

On June 3, 2006, Montenegro formally declared independence after parliament by a majority vote accepted the results of the referendum held on May 21, in which voters backed splitting from Serbia.

According to official results, the turn-out in the referendum was 85.5 per cent, or 419,240 people. About 55.5 per cent of eligible voters, or 230,661 people, voted in favour of independence, and 185,002, or 44.5 per cent, voted against.

The large Serbian ethnic community, making up about 30 per cent of the population, overwhelmingly voted against breaking away - and those divisions over independence remain fresh.

The session on Friday will be led by the new speaker, Darko Pajovic, who was voted into office on Thursday, without the presence of pro-Serbian opposition MPs who boycotted his appointment.

Pajovic leads the opposition Positive party, whose five MPs on January 27 helped Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic survive a no-confidence vote, angering the rest of the opposition.

"Parliamentary debates, as well as all events prior and after the January 27 vote, suggest that we in this chamber, as well as in Montenegro, have very different opinions about who we are and in what direction we need to move. Unfortunately, it also turned out that we all have little sympathy for the views of others," Pajovic said after the vote.

His appointment also showed that old political and ethnic divisions remain strong in Montenegro.

The pro-Serbian opposition bloc of parties also refused to join the Djukanovic's new cabinet, approved in May and reconstituted to containing members of three, more moderate opposition parties.

While accusing the Djukanovic administration of election fraud, corruption and bad privatization, some pro-Serbian parties also still refuse to recognise the state's independence, claiming that the results of the referendum were faked.

Ahead of the independence anniversary, a leader of the pro-Serbian Democratic People's Party, Milan Knezevic, revealed the results of a study which showed that if a new referendum took place, only about 50 per cent of citizens would voted for independence, while 30.9 per cent would support union with Serbia.

"It proves how Montenegro remains deeply divided society and that there are no indications that this gap will disappear any time soon," he said.

Prime Minister Djukanovic has also admitted that Montenegrins are still almost evenly divided about the country's independence, with about 60 per cent of citizens on one side and 40 per cent on the other.

Another survey, this time in Serbia, published on May 19, however, suggested that Serbian citizens are not much interested in restoring a federation with Montenegro.
Only about 20 per cent of Serbians would support a new federation with Montenegro, a survey conducted for the weekly Nedeljnik shows.

Branko Lukovac, former leader of the Movement for Independence, a civil bloc formed in 2006 and bringing together parties, organizations and intellectuals, said significant progress in reducing the divisions in Montenegro - political, ethnic, religious and social, has yet to be made.

Lukovac told BIRN that the current government, and all political parties, have a responsibility to show commitment to eliminate the causes of division, and strengthen tolerance, dialogue and cooperation.

'We have yet to see essential and necessary changes in the system of values, so that knowledge and ability, justice and fairness, morality and ethics, become the most important values and criteria, instead of domination by party affiliation, widespread nepotism, greed, corruption and crime," Lukovac said.

Montenegro's divisions over independence are not only a reflection of recent events but date back generations.

Unlike most other former Yugoslav republics, the country did not gain independence following the break-up of Yugoslavia but re-gained it.

Never subjugated by the Ottomans, or by the Austrians, it was an independent principality for centuries, whose statehood was formally recognised by the Great Powers at the Berlin Congress of 1878. Its ruler, Prince Nikola, upgraded himself to king in 1910.

It only lost its independence in 1918, following a referendum whose fairness is disputed, when it was absorbed into the new Kingdom of Yugoslavia.

2016 Jun 03 22:47
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