Disturbed functionality of the State Election Commission is an issue of concern

The Presidential Elections were held in accordance with electoral legislation and most of the international standards in this area, despite recorded failings in the organization of the electoral process, disturbed finctionality of the State Election Commission and the secrecy of voting in some polling stations.

This is demonstrated by The Report on Preliminary Findings on the Presidential Elections held on April 15th, which was presented on the press conference today by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI).

The Head of the Monitoring Mission, Zlatko Vujović, said that the Presidential Elections were held in accordance with electoral legislation and most of the international standards in this area, despite, as he stated, reported failings in the organization of the electoral process, disturbed functionality of State Electoral Comission and secrecy of voting in some polling stations, incomplete composition of polling boards, and problems with the regularity of the voter register.

„Despite certain upgradings compared to the parliamentary elections, the disturbed functionality of the State Election Comission, with the strong politicization in its work and work of Agency for Prevention of Corruption, is an issue of concern”, said Vujović at the PR Centre.

Legal expert of the Monitoring Mission, Bojan Božović, said that in CeMI they have noticed that in work and volition of part of the members in Municipal and State Election Commissions still dominate party affiliation of those members.

“In the final phase of the election process all members of the permanent composition did not participate in the work of the State Election Commission, primarily the members of the opposition, the electoral lists were not nominated by the authorized representatives, which violated the concept of organization and decision-making in this administrative body during the electoral process itself “, explained Božović.

He reminded that the State Electoral Commission, with six out of the possible 16 votes, denied Bojanic’s objection, by which this presidential candidate demanded the cancellation of the election result.

Opposition representatives did not even come to this session and there was no quorum. The State Election Commission explained that the objections submitted by the presidential candidate Mladen Bojanić supposed to be submitted to the Municipal Election Commission, not to this institution”, stated Božović.

According to his words, even though the State Election Commission improved communication with medias through the appointment of PR managers for presidential elections, and more transparency, “it has not been fully achieved”.

“Media do not have the opportunity to attend the session, while the internet presentation, although improved, remains substandard from the aspect of data and documents availability”, Božović stressed.

The Municipal Election Commission, as he said, are working according to Law, “but we have noticed that many of them are having troubles with the site updating which leads to a reduction in transparency”.

The Election day was marked by a number of irregularities that appeared in a similar form to a large number of polling stations. CeMI’s legal team received 110 reports of irregularities during the election day, both from observers at polling stations as well as from the citizens themselves”, said Božović.

He said that the largest number of irregularities were related to violating the secrecy of voting by loudly pronouncing name of voters during the electronic identification; simultaneous voting of multiple persons; giving information to third parties about the options they have voted; accepting open ballot papers from polling boards; and disregard of procedures that ensure the secrecy of voting at polling stations.

“Problems of unregulated voters register are reported, as well as examples of inadequate behavior of members of polling boards, which is primarily referenced to verbal conflicts of members of polling boards, use of mobile phones or some other electronic devices,” Božović pointed out.

Deputy Head of the Monitoring Mission, Nikoleta Đukanović, said that there are still a certain number of voters that are not on the voter register, and they should be, or vice versa, “so it’s necessary to think about new mechanisms to reduce the number of these situations”.

“The app for the number of voters showed that the total number of voters in the closed voter register is 532.599 voters, while the number of voters with prints is less, 523.791. It was established that 8.808 of persons don’t have finger prints in the base. In most cases it was people with older personal identification, which they substituted in the meantime because they live abroad or for some other reason, and then persons who have turned 18, but haven’t regulated that status for their documents”, said Djukanovic.

According to her words, the AFIS system showed that there are 288 assumed similar types in the base, or that 163 of voters potentially have the same fingerprint with one or more voters.

“It was determined that of the 163 of voters, 74 of them have been recognized in the process of deduplication which was conducted in 2016, while now 89 people are newly recognized”, said Đukanović.

While speaking about the misuse of state services, as she stated, CeMI’s observers registered the use of public resources with the goal of political marketing, “especially in the case of presidential candidate of the ruling coalition”.

“The public service was balanced and professional while reporting on the presidential campaign, unlike parts of private media who didn’t have the same approach to all the presidential candidates. Negative campaign on social networks continues”, said Đukanović.

She reminded that CeMI published a preliminary result projection based on the completion of the sample 45 minutes after polling stations closed, and the final one at 22.15pm.

“The average deviation of CeMI’s estimation in comparison with the results published by the SEC was 0,04 percent”, pointed out Đukanović.

PR coordinator of the monitoring mission, Teodora Gilić, reminded that CeMI monitored the electoral campaign from the registration, first candidature, election day, and as she clarified, continues to monitor the post-electoral period until the publication of the final results.

For monitoring of the election day, as she stated, CeMI accredited 1.340 observers, which were distributed at 90 percent of polling stations.

“The monitoring of the election day was realized through several groups of activities – the monitoring and realization of electoral procedures at polling stations, parallel counting of votes, monitoring the work of SEC, municipal election commissions, the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, the Ministry of Interior, public and media relations, and presentation of result projections in real time”, pointed out Gilić.

While answering the question of journalists, about what kind of message the presidential elections send before the upcoming local ones, Vujović said that what had been known from before was noticed.

“And that is that we have a dysfunctional SEC, that the problem of great influence of party affiliation was still very pronounced – not just in the work of the SEC, but to a lesser extent in the work of municipal election commissions. That represents a great danger to Montenegro and the electoral process for the simple reason that members of SEC vote exclusively based on party affiliation”, explained Vujović.

He stated that it was a similar situation in the Agency for Prevention of Corruption.

“We, in CeMI, think that SEC in this kind of format and model, nor the Agency for Prevention of Corruption, are not up to the task and the expectations that exist in this moment.”

Vujović announced that CeMI will monitor the upcoming local elections, that the plan was that that organization covers polling stations in each municipality, but that the plan still hasn’t been confirmed.

The work of the monitoring mission of CeMI was financed by the German Embassy in Podgorica, through the project “Let Fair Elections Become a Habit! – Building Trust in the Integrity of the Electoral Process in Montenegro.”

You can download the complete report on the preliminary findings and conclusions about the presidential elections held on the 15th of April 2018 here.

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