Montenegro victor accuses Milosevic protege of trying to provoke violence
Oct. 21, 1997
PODGORICA, Yugoslavia (AP) _ The president-elect of Montenegro on Tuesday accused his vanquished foe, a supporter of Yugoslav President Slobodan Milosevic, of trying to provoke violence to overturn the vote.
This capital was tense but mostly peaceful as the two men maneuvered for control of Montenegro, a republic of 600,000 people that, along with Serbia, forms Yugoslavia. Supporters of both sides are well armed.
Behind the dispute is the imposing figure of Milosevic, the Balkan region's main power broker, who will suffer a loss of authority and prestige if Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic assumes the Montenegrin presidency.
Momir Bulatovic, the defeated incumbent, has refused to recognize the result of Sunday's runoff, charging it was unfair. He launched what he said would be daily protests to try to overturn Djukanovic's victory. He also can file a formal complaint with the election commission to have the vote result annulled.
Djukanovic accused his foe of being a sore loser, of carrying doing Milosevic's bidding, and of seeking to provoke violence.
``Bulatovic has no courage or dignity to concede defeat,'' the 35-year-old Djukanovic said in an interview. ``And he is trying to provoke clashes in Montenegro.''
As he spoke, demonstrators marched past his office window, shouting slogans against him. Djukanovic said peaceful protest was normal, but if they turn violent, ``we will use all available means against them.''
Final results announced by the state election commission showed that Djukanovic beat Bulatovic by 174,745 votes to 169,257 _ a margin of just 5,488 ballots.
``We wish Djukanovic every success,'' said election commission official Milo Stankovic, announcing the final tally to reporters. He said the commission had rejected Bulatovic's complaints that about 8,000 people who were not qualified to vote had been registered to do so between the first round of the election, on Oct. 5, and Sunday's runoff.
Bulatovic won the initial round, but finished just short of an outright majority. He now says he will take his complaints to Yugoslav federal courts.
Despite his complaints, observers of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said the results reflected the will of the voters. It said that registers used in the first round contained many errors, leaving some citizens unable to vote.
``It is very clear from this statement that the will of the people should be respected,'' said Peter Hatch, one of the chiefs of the monitoring mission.
About 5,000 Bulatovic supporters marched through Podgorica, chanting ``Slobo, Slobo,'' in honor of Milosevic.
They chanted ``Yugoslavia! Yugoslavia!'' to emphasize that they oppose Djukanovic's plans to make the small republic more independent of Yugoslavia.
But a loss of power in Montenegro would significantly weaken Milosevic.
Though Montenegro is dwarfed by Serbia's 9.4 million people, the republic still controls half of the upper house of the Yugoslav parliament, which has the power to choose or dismiss the Yugoslav president. Djukanovic might try to enlist lawmakers critical of Milosevic to help get him fired.
Milosevic instigated wars in neighboring Croatia and Bosnia before signing onto the Dayton peace deal, and he still is considered a main player in the effort to bring peace to Bosnia.
It was clear that Yugoslav federal authorities were lining up behind Bulatovic.
Milosevic moved on another front Tuesday to rectify a second election disappointment. On Oct. 5, his protege Zoran Lilic was narrowly beaten by extreme nationalist Vojislav Seselj in an election for the presidency of Serbia. However, the election was invalid under Serbian law because turnout was less than 50 percent.
A repeat election was called for Dec. 7, earlier than many observers had expected. The early date might give Milosevic's opponents in Serbia less time to organize, putting them at a disadvantage.