The problem is the state, which lacks the institutional setup that would make us all equal before the law and accountable for our actions. This is why in Montenegro “the rule of law” is an oxymoron. Parties and individuals toying with the state and its future are, on the other hand, just a daily fix of irony for citizens’ amusement.
Oxymoron is a word of Greek origin, representing a figure of speech forged from two contradictory terms: oxys (sharp) and moros (dull), freely translated into something like “sharpwitted folly”. We come across them every day: “nearly perfect”, “living dead”, “public secret”, “a little too much”… A popular and striking stylistic device, oxymoron rose to fame in the era of romanticism and modernism, leaving its mark on many great literary works.
In spite of its simple structure, oxymoron is a complex figure. Outside literature, any attempt to approach literally its elements takes us to logical contradictions, constructions that are incompatible and incomprehensible, and in our case, are also the bread and butter of Montenegrin reality…
A reality that allows Džavid Šabović, a highly ranked official of the ruling Social-Democratic Party (SDP), to comment the Constitutional Court in the following terms: “Judges are the party cadre, and are mostly well known politicians. If they had not party background, they could have hardly attained a political function…” We should trust Šabović. He was until only yesterday the president of the Parliament’s Constitutional and Legislative Committee, where this critical opinion of the state of judiciary of him never came to the fore, nor did he do anything to dismantle the practice on which he is now indicating. On the contrary, he was an active participant, together with his party colleagues and those of the larger coalition partner, in supporting the appointments of those same judges, and he never seemed to mind the fact that one vice-president of his own party became a judge of the Constitutional Court in the same manner.
To disentangle this, by no means rare, example of a Montenegrin oxymoron, we must pose three questions.
First: is it possible that an MP or another party official can resign on his/her position today, and already tomorrow become an impartial professional, for instance a judge of the Constitutional or any other court, member of the Senate of the State Audit Institution, prosecutor, director of the Police Directorate, or manager of any trunk in the jungle of regulatory agencies which the new/old Prime Minister Milo Đukanović recently vowed to clear (anybody still remembers this or have we all fallen prey to collective galloping dementia?)
Second: wherefore these sudden wisdom (now by Šabović, not too long ago in the throngs of the end-of-the-year fever, also by Brajović, and others)? To what end, for what reason, in service of personal or party interests? In the situation where the Constitutional Court is to decide on the constitutionality of Vujanović’s candidacy for President of the Republic, and the smaller coalition party is unwilling to support him, is there a more obvious example of an attempt to pressure the Court?
Third: Why are such outbursts, which are a valuable contribution to a multi-layered reading of an irresponsible government, and the best roadmap to the secret of its longevity, simply a blip in the media? Why do all such testimonies, as well as multiple other evidence from the people within the system itself, end up as accounts of petty horse-trading when they have the potential to start the avalanche of major changes?
Perhaps because we are fast becoming an audience of a non-engaging performance. From time to time, there is a gap between an individual in the government and the government itself, but the oxymoron continues to enjoy the symbiosis, and the plot never unravels.
If this wasn’t the case, the Supreme State Prosecutor would have long ago plunged into investigation of public procurement by the Police Directorate which, according to the official figures, only in 2011 spent EUR 190 299.15 for toners (EUR 145 299.15 for printers and EUR 45 000 for fax machines), while its inspectors have been out of ink since July 2012, unable to do their work and conduct investigations in adequate conditions?! Perhaps somebody should submit an anonymous complaint to the Prosecutor, because it seems these are the only ones they ever follow up on (the less evidence offered, the better!) instead of paying attention to the scandals which rightly populate the covers of every daily paper, as well as a sea of information that is public and linked to specific individuals, at least some of them being responsible. Or have these become untouchable?
If it wasn’t the case, SDP would have left the government long ago, and joined the fight for the principles. It takes a lot of sacrifices, but it would certainly contribute more to the shaping of a democratic society in Montenegro than occasional stand-offs, which only serve to illuminate fundamental flows in various processes, irregularities, corruption on all levels etc. If it wasn’t the case, we wouldn’t have the brother of the Prime Minister asking the state for a compensation of 10 million euros, while we stubbornly refuse to make illegal enrichment a crime, in spite of all recommendations by international experts.
But it is the case. And there is no doubt that Aco Đukanović will get his 10 million from all of us, taxpayers who meekly agree to pay one new tax after another, and nobody will ask him how he earned his fortune. And the biggest problem in all this isn’t Aco Đukanović, who learned to swim well in the Montenegrin transition, nor all the less known crafty sharks. They are the consequence. The problem is the state, which lacks the institutional setup that would make us all equal before the law and accountable for our actions. This is why in Montenegro “the rule of law” is an oxymoron. Parties and individuals toying with the state and its future are, on the other hand, just a daily fix of irony for citizens’ amusement.
Daliborka Uljarević, Executive director of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE)
Published in Vijesti, 05. 02. 2013.