Public opinion in Montenegro - Society divided in two

The latest public opinion poll has shown once again that Montenegro is deeply divided concerning main issues. The only constant is that the number of supporters of FRY is decreasing.


SUN, 28 MAY 2000

Podgorica, 19 May, 2000 - The present Federal Republic of Yugoslavia has a decreasing number of supporters in Montenegro. This is confirmed by the investigation carried out by the Centre for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM) in Podgorica in the last decade of April as part of the project titled “Public Opinion in Montenegro in 2000”.

“A stable majority which supports the block which is in favour of Montenegro’s independence or confederation with Serbia with an approximate ratio of 2:1 testifies that FRY defined by 1992 Constitution, in other words the federal idea as such, has lost legitimacy in Montenegro. Within this block there are differences concerning the goal and how it is to be attained (immediately by referendum or later through negotiations with the Serbian government or the opposition), but there are no differences about what is not wanted”, conclude the analysts of CEDEM Veselin Pavicevic and Srdjan Darmanovic after the analysis of the following data:

Only 25.3 per cent out of one thousand pollees (the poll in the field was carried out by Damar agency which has proved to be the best in Montenegro, without competition) believe that the best solution for Montenegro and Serbia is the federation on present foundations. The present federation should be replaced by the community proposed by the platform of the government of Montenegro – 19.8 pollees think. A unitarian state is supported by 4.5 per cent of the pollees, while the supporters of independent Montenegro are the most numerous – at this moment there are 35.7 per cent of them.

Similar are the results of the poll when the need for holding a referendum on the legal status of Montenegro is concerned. That it is "the only logical move" is believed by 44 per cent of the pollees. Another 24.9 per cent could be added to them because they think "that the referendum is a solution, but it is necessary to wait for some more time”. “There is foundation to assume that timing with this group is problematic for fear of possible conflicts, similar to those on the territory of former Yugoslavia”, it is stated in CEDEM’s analysis. On the contrary, only 20.9 per cent of the pollees believe that “despite everything, Montenegro must remain in community with Serbia without any alternative and preconditions”.

It is interesting that 14.7 per cent of the participants in the poll at this moment have no stand concerning the best modality for the future of Montenegro. Pavicevic and Darmanovic believe that this could be “conditioned by the fact that the process of resolving the Montenegrin state issue, in one or the other direction, has lasted for quite a long time, that due to numerous circumstances it is proceeding comparatively slowly and that for the time being no time limit has been set. In such a situation confusion grows among the people and they are losing reliable landmarks for making their choice because they are not capable of following all the subtleties of the complicated political process, the interaction between the domestic and the foreign forces and influences, the moves and decisions which result from them”.

To put it in simple terms, the confusion which is spread by representatives of Montenegrin authorities in their public appearances (‘it is necessary to hurry up with the referendum’, ‘it is necessary to wait with the referendum’, ‘the platform is not valid any more’, ‘we will continue talks about the platform’, ‘Montenegro is practically sovereign’, ‘we are all advocating preservation of FRY’…) has affected a part of the voters who are not even trying to hide their bewilderment. As long as Montenegrin political leadership does not precisely define its stand concerning this issue, their followers will continue being – indecisive.

This primarily refers to the leaders of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS), that is, the coalition ‘For Better Living’, which is still, according to the results of this poll, the most popular among Montenegrin voters. Had the elections been scheduled for the end of April or the beginning of May, the ruling coalition would have won 37.7 per cent of the votes. Next to them is their greatest opponent, the pro-Milosevic’s Socialist People’s Party (SNP) which would have won 22.5 per cent, and then comes the Liberal League of Montenegro (LS CG) with 9.6 per cent of the votes. Here too it is evident that more than one quarter of the electorate does “not know” who it would place its confidence in (11.8 per cent) or whether it would abstain from voting (13.9 per cent).

Rating of politicians was also investigated. Chairman of the parliament Svetozar Marovic is still the politician with the highest grades in Montenegro. On a scale from one to five, Marovic got the average mark of 3.72 – which is slightly below what he got in the January investigation by CEDEM when he had the average mark of 3.98. He keeps this position not only thanks to the way in which he chairs the sessions of the assembly - with skill and always ready to make a compromise - but also thanks to the fact that his political appearance does not radically divide the electorate, analysts of CEDEM conclude, with the explanation that Svetozar Marovic is “one of the rare politicians who has got very good marks even from his political opponents”.

Nevertheless, authors of the analysis, Veselin Pavicevic and Srdjan Darmanovic, state that Milo Djukanovic “remains the most popular politician, not only in his own party and the ruling coalition but also in Montenegro in general. This is confirmed by the fact that of all state institutions the president of the Republic enjoys the greatest confidence of the public (‘great’ among 41.4 per cent, ‘moderate’ confidence of 20.7 per cent), as well as that supporters of his ruling party experience him as a leader while supporters of the other two members of the ruling coalition also estimate him with very high grades”.

The position of Momir Bulatovic, former president of Montenegro and the current (il)legal federal prime minister is by far less envious. With his average mark (1.86) he ranks the fourteenth on the list of popularity in Montenegro, and among the supporters of SNP – the party whose president he is – he is the fourth on the list of popularity of politicians. Before him are the following politicians (in this order: Predrag Bulatovic (4.48), Slobodan Milosevic (4.00) and Zoran Zizic (3.94). (Among supporters of SNP, Momir Bulatovic was marked with the average 3.74). It seems that the results on popularity within the party confirm the hypothesis on division of SNP into “Podgorica” and “Belgrade” faction, as well as the growing influence of the Podgorica group personified by Predrag Bulatovic.

As the results of April investigation almost fully coincide with those of January, in other words that there has been no major changes, experts of CEDEM are reassured about their thesis on “divided society” in Montenegro: “Where the electorate is divided in main values and political stands, and the division sharp and deep, main election and political blocks are comparatively stable, their support does not dramatically vary, and transfers from one ‘camp’ to the other are not massive”.

That the social division is deeply rooted is illustrated by a part of the investigation which refers to the stands of the citizens of Montenegro to their neighbours and compatriots of other ethnic origin and religions, and to nations in Europe and the world which affect the dominant political and social trends. This issue reflects most expressively the deep division of Montenegrin society not only concerning political commitment, but primarily in apprehension of fundamental moral values and social code.

Almost every sixth pollee (more than 15 per cent) has “mostly” or a “very” unfavourable opinion about aborigines in Montenegro who have lived here for centuries: the Albanians (34.7 per cent), the Croats (23.7) and the Muslims (18.1), but also about the Americans (30.8), the English (29.0), the Germans (26.8), the French (23.6) and the Italians (15.7), while the percentage of negative opinion about the Russians (13.6) and the Chinese (14.9) is just slightly below fifteen per cent!

Even more crushing is the fact that supporters of the parties which declare themselves as civil (DPS, LS CG) cherish unnegligible animosity (in percentages approximately or even above 10 per cent) to the Italians and the Albanians (DPS), the Albanians, Chinese, Russians, Muslims, Americans and Germans (LS CG). At the same time, in DPS, LS CG and SDP there is registered intolerance towards the Serbs: 3.4 per cent in DPS, more than 4.8 per cent in SDP, up to 6.3 per cent in LS CG.

Significant division of the society is also indicated by the data which show to what extent the Montenegrins and the Serbs believe in certain institutions of the system. For example, 77.5 per cent of the pollees among Montenegrins have “moderate” and “great” confidence in the president of Montenegro, while 57.3 per cent of interviewed Serbs have “little” or “no” confidence in Djukanovic. The situation is similar when the assembly of Montenegro is concerned (62.6 per cent of the Montenegrins trust it, while 54.7 per cent of the Serbs do not believe in it); and the government of Montenegro (64.3 in relation to 61.4 per cent) and the ministry of internal affairs of Montenegro (48.7 to 63.9 per cent). On the contrary, the Serbs in Montenegro believe in the Army of Yugoslavia the most (73.9 per cent) while 49.6 per cent of the Montenegrins do not believe in this institution…

Significant differences are also indicated by the data that the Serbs blaze the trail when it comes to giving great significance to ethnic affiliations: nation (69.3 in relation to 66.1 per cent); brotherhood and tribe (59.3 in relation to 52.3 per cent) and FRY (61.8 in relation to 24.5 per cent). On the other hand, Montenegrins are linked more to the Montenegrin state (70.8 in relation to 33.2 per cent); Europe (56.9 in relation to 41.5 per cent) and – the party they are members of (19.3 in relation to 16.6 per cent)!

Because of everything stated, it is not hard to accept the conclusion of CEDEM’s analysts who concluded “that the mentioned deep social and political divisions do not mean that the relation of forces in Montenegro can be expressed by the ratio of 50:50, but on the contrary, that the ruling coalition and political stands and stands concerning the system of values which are inclined towards it still form the majority Montenegro. The same also refers to the conclusion that political stands and the system of values quite contrary to those of the ruling political block are sufficiently present and deeply rooted to make the conclusion about Montenegro as a divided society justified”.

Original article