How much will the upcoming parliamentary elections cost the citizens of Montenegro?

Organization of the upcoming parliamentary elections, which will be held on 16th of October 2016, will cost the citizens of Montenegro more than 5 million EUR. This amount comprises expenses of electoral administration, financing electoral campaigns of political parties and application of the new system of electronic identification of voters, which will be applied in the upcoming parliamentary elections for the first time.

The Budget of Montenegro for 2016 provides 1,6 million EUR for organization of the regular parliamentary elections. In addition to that, another 1,9 million EUR will be allocated for financing of pre-electoral campaigning activities of political parties, pursuant to the Law on Financing of Political Parties and Electoral Campaign. 20% of this budget line will be allocated to political parties in equal amounts, no later than 8 days upon expiry of the deadline for submission of electoral lists, whereas another 80% of this sum is to be allocated to political subjects which had won seats in previous elections, in such manner that the allocated amount is proportional to the number of seats they had won.   Thus, total expenses of the electoral process organization and political parties’ activities during the election campaign amounts to approximately 3,5 million EUR.

In addition to that, the system of electronic identification of voters will be applied in the upcoming parliamentary elections for the first time. According to available information, the cost of electronic identification devices’ procurement has been 1,5 million EUR.

Moreover, we should have in mind that Montenegro allocated the largest amount of money for regular activities of political parties on an annual basis, in the entire region (0,6% of the total budget). Hence, the amount of 4,6 million EUR has been allocated to political parties for the purpose of their regular activities in 2016.

Taking into consideration that local governments provide approximately 1,6 million EUR for the work of political parties at the local level on a yearly basis, the political life will cost citizens of Montenegro more than 11 million EUR in 2016.

Based on conducted analysis, CeMI has found that Montenegro provides the largest amount of budgetary funds for financing of political parties, compared to other countries in the region. What draws attention is that signatures supporting political parties’ electoral lists are the only condition for obtaining funds for election campaign financing, even though in practice, there were cases of parties winning less votes than signatures in support of them. We find that, in such cases, the law should stipulate mandatory return of funds provided for electoral campaign, so as to ensure higher level of responsibility of political subjects when it comes to spending public funds for electoral campaign financing.

CeMI considers that the authorities should invest additional efforts to control transparency and responsibility for spending public funds on political subjects’ and election campaign financing. It should also be noted that reports of the State Audit Institution indicate serious omissions in accounting procedures of several political subjects and breaches of Law on Financing of Political Subjects and Electoral Campaign. So far, no misdemeanor processes have been initiated based on SAI’s report, despite mutliple grounds not only for misdemeanor responsibility, but also the criminal one.

We find that the Anti-Corruption Agency ought to be much more efficient in implementing its legal powers to control the financing of political subjects and election campaigns, from both private and public sources.

In addition to that, political parties should also raise the transparency of their finances, by submitting financial reports to the authorities on a regular basis and publishing such report on their web pages.

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