The election campaign in Niksic was marked with strong tension, pressures and widespread disregard for epidemiological measures

Voting process through the Election day in Niksic was conducted in accordance with domestic legislation, despite the challenges posed by the pressure on the work of polling boards, verbal conflicts between polling board members at polling stations as well as in their immediate vicinity.

The election campaign was marked by strong tension, cases of violence, widespread disregard for epidemiological measures, violation of election silence, participation of foreign actors from the Republic of Serbia, Republic of Srpska and municipalities from the northern part of the Republic of Kosovo. Interference in the pre-election process was particularly expressed through media reporting from these countries, which also cover Montenegro. The voter register for the municipality of Niksic includes almost 1000 double-registered voters, who are also registered in the voter register of the Republic of Serbia.

That is the assessment from the Report on Preliminary Conclusions and Findings “Civic Monitoring of Local Elections in Niksic Montenegro 2021” which Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) has presented on press conference.

The President of the Governing Board of CeMI, Zlatko Vujovic, has explained that in their organization they’ve been checking information about almost thousand voters from Niksic double-registered in Voter Register of Serbia which was reported by the media.

“That documentation didn’t contain complete data. It contained part of data, but didn’t contain Unique Citizens Identity Numbers, so the credibility of the information was rather reserved. Considering that CeMI has the right to access the voter register as accredited observer, we were checking that data in Voter Register of Montenegro. We found those voters, we found unique identity numbers”, said Vujovic.

According to him, from 969 voters from the list which CeMI was checking, for 8 persons there weren’t any data, 3 persons were not registered in Voter Register of Nikisic Municipality, so it wasn’t possible to check their status in Voter Register of another country, and for 5 persons which were registered into Voter Register of Montenegro there weren’t any data in Voter Register of Serbia.

“There is one bigger issue here, not just are you in voter register or not, rather the question of double citizenship and will the State institutions start the process of suspending citizenships to people who acquired it illegally.”, Vujovic pointed out.

He indicated that this was the first time that the suspicion about double-registered voters was checked and documented.

Vujovic said that pre-election silence was broken, stating that social networks were used to avoid the rules of silence.

“There is one characteristic event, the live broadcast of the GP URA event during the pre-election silence. Advertising on social networks is not regulated by our legislation, the headquarters of companies are outside Montenegro, so there is a problem to regulate it. When it comes to a specific event that was broadcast live, it is a clear example of violating the election silence, because the event itself during the election campaign is of a public character, it is not allowed, “Vujović explained.

CeMI, as he said, proposes the abolition of the pre-election silence.

Vujovic assessed that Montenegro is going backwards when it comes to the election process.

“What was done in Niksic may be the worst election process ever conducted in Montenegro.” We have seen the influence of external actors, primarily those actors who are from the Republic of Serbia, the Republika Srpska, but we have also seen examples of the arrival of activists from municipalities in northern Kosovo. In general, all that help went to one political bloc, the Coalition “For the Future of Niksic”, stated Vujovic.

He said that we had a situation that in addition to the money that enters Montenegro during the election campaign, there are also activists, “not to mention the media that were under the control of the authorities in Belgrade, which brutally interfered in the election campaign.”

Speaking about the evaluation of the work of the municipal election commission, Vujovic said that the body did a good job.

“The members of the polling boards also did a great job, although they were exposed to pressure, so the ratings of our observers were quite high,” Vujovic said.

CeMI’s PR coordinator, Maja Bjelic, said that the observation mission of that organization for monitoring the election process for the local elections in Niksic in 2021 accredited 181 observers.

“The mission consisted of short-term and long-term observers. CeMI also hired a network of local coordinators. “Having in mind that there are 138 polling stations in Niksic, during this observation mission, CeMI had total coverage in the municipality of Niksic during the election day,” Bjelic pointed out.

She reminded that CeMI used the previously developed web and mobile application “Fair Elections” (www.ferizbori.me) within the project of Civic Monitoring of Local Elections in Niksic, through which citizens and observers had the opportunity to report observed irregularities or violations of their voting rights.

“The application also enabled citizens to follow live projections of election results, as well as to be informed about their voting rights,” Bjelic added.

CeMI thanked the British Embassy in Podgorica, which financially supported the project of Civic Monitoring of Local elections in Niksic in 2021 and enabled the implementation of this mission.

“CeMI also wants to express its gratitude to all representatives of the election administration, state bodies, political parties and the media with which cooperation has been established in terms of implementing this mission,” Bjelic concluded.

The complete Report is available here  : http://cemi.org.me/wp-content/uploads/2021/03/Report-on-Preliminary-Conclusions-and-Findings-Niksic-2021.pdf

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