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Kosovo, Montenegro as factors in September elections

Kosovo is an important factor in the election campaign for the Left coalition. Even though Milosevic's policies have caused Kosovo to effectively secede from Kosovo, he is once again trying to turn his defeat into a victory and to profit from it.

He believes that the votes from Kosovo will give him a decisive advantage in the elections. He counts on up to 200,000 Kosovo Serb votes, which will mostly be due to election fraud. However, that will not be enough for victory, so that he will have to engage in some major election engineering.

According to reports from the Belgrade dailies, the election districts of Vranje and Prokuplje, southern Serbia, now cover the entire territory of Kosovo. Vranje now has about 640,000 voters and Prokuplje about 720,000 voters. In the last presidential elections in 1997 Vranje had about 300,000 voters and Prokuplje about 200,000 voters. This means that these two election districts have about 850,000 voters more than in the previous elections, including the Albanians from Kosovo. This is a good vote-stealing reservoir for Milosevic in the upcoming elections.

A former high-ranking SPS official says he himself brought 400,000 nonexistent Albanian votes from Kosovo to Serbian president Milan Milutinovic in the 1997 elections. Milosevic will take even more if he needs to, even though many opposition officials claim they can prevent this kind of electoral fraud in Kosovo. However, the Left coalition is now ready to steal votes big time, especially as it will not be paying attention to reactions from abroad. Its only concern will be how to intimidate the people so that they do not protest after the elections.

For now the Montenegrin leaders are following their own interests -- they did not want to participate in the Serbian opposition's plans to overthrow the Milosevic regime in elections. Their estimate was that the Milosevic regime would win the elections in Serbia and therefore Montenegrin president Milo Djukanovic decided to protect his interests and keep the option of Montenegro's secession from Yugoslavia in the event of Milosevic's election victory.

Djukanovic's hope that fewer that 100,000 people in Montenegro will go to the polls in the federal elections, which is about 25 percent of the electorate in Serbia's sister republic. If he succeeds in that, Djukanovic will soon schedule a referendum on Montenegro's status and will eventually get Montenegro to secede from Yugoslavia -- in the even of Milosevic's victory.

Djukanovic, whose political position in Montenegro is growing weaker, will be facing major problems if Milosevic wins because Milosevic's loyalists will then demand a referendum, hoping they can oust Djukanovic. Djukanovic can only count on Milosevic wanting to get Montenegro to get out of Yugoslavia in a civil war.

If there is a crisis over Montenegro's secession, Milosevic will once again try to get for himself the status of international negotiator.

Source: B92

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