CEMI - Centar za monitoring i istraživanje

Changes to the register of residence and place of residence are the key to solving the voter list

29. May. 2022. in news

Amendments to the Law on Residence and Residence Registers are the key to solving the voter list problem, which Montenegro has not been able to solve for decades, said Minister without portfolio Zoran Miljanic.

He assessed that not solving this problem does not suit the citizens, the state, nor the political actors in Montenegro.

"If you were to go back 30 years, it is clear who was responsible for the disorderly voter list in the previous period, those who could manipulate the voter list, votes, with everything that we had the opportunity to see and what happened in the previous period", said Miljanic in an interview with the MINA agency.

Miljanic, who was previously the state secretary in the Ministry of Internal Affairs (MUP), said that the central problem lies in the irregular residence register of Montenegrin citizens.

"This means that Montenegrin citizens, who go to work abroad or move from Montenegro, have not had a legal obligation to deregister according to the Law on residences and residences," explained Miljanic.

Commenting on the diaspora's accusations that the government somehow wants to get rid of a large number of citizens living in the diaspora so that they cannot vote and that electoral engineering is being done, Miljanic said that this is a completely wrong perception.

"At that moment, it was a politicized issue and we in the Ministry of Internal Affairs realized what it was about, that the central problem was the disorderly list of residences and places of residence and the register," said Miljanic.

Miljanic stated that it is not known exactly who lives in Montenegro and who has a residence.

"Because according to the Law on the Register of Residence and Residence, you did not have to deregister. It was not an imperative norm to deregister if you are going to live somewhere outside the borders of Montenegro," explained Miljanic.

Asked how many of those people there could be, Miljanic said that they did not have that information and that they proposed that some provisions of that law be changed.

He stated that, in accordance with that, a working group was formed in the Ministry of Interior for changes to the Law on the Register of Residence and Place of Residence, which completed the work, adding that the revised bill was sent to the Parliament.

Regarding the problem of double registered voters, Miljanic said that in a year and a half, local elections were held in several municipalities and that the intensity of the problem was such as the uncertainty surrounding the winner of some elections.

"Where that uncertainty was greatest, that's where the problems were greatest," he said and added that where there were no dilemmas about the winner, the elections were completely peaceful.

He believes that the elections in Montenegro will be a celebration of democracy, as it is everywhere in some developed and normal countries, and that it will be far from the fact that any election process can be considered a state of war, or that they come from other countries to help one or others.

"And with these political changes, I believe that there will be political stability in Montenegro in relation to the electoral law itself, and also in relation to the electoral legislation, I think that the parliament will finally start doing its job", he added.

Asked to explain the fact that, according to the latest data, the number of registered voters has come close to the total number of inhabitants, Miljanic said that he thinks it is about people who do not live in Montenegro, and have not registered their residence.

Miljanic stated that it cannot be said that they do not have the right to vote, because if they have not acquired the right to vote in another country, Montenegro is the only country where they can vote.

He pointed out that the right to vote is lost by losing Montenegrin citizenship.

As he said, for the first time, as far as local elections are concerned, in all local elections held in the last year, the voting system was passed through AFIS.

"AFIS is a fingerprint photo deduplication system and, if duplicate voters were to appear, that system would automatically eliminate them." We did not have such cases, AFIS did not recognize people who are double voters in that way," said Miljanic.

When asked how far the filtering of the voter list has come, he said that all municipalities have passed.

"So I think that even with all these later improvements, with the arrangement and the new Law on the Register of Residence and Place of Residence, we would in many ways succeed in bringing the voter list to the limits of something that is acceptable for everyone in Montenegro," Miljanic said.

Miljanic pointed out that the new biometric ID card also helps and appealed to everyone who has not replaced the old ID card to do so.

Speaking about the changes to the criteria for determining the conditions for acquiring Montenegrin citizenship, Miljanic said that he cannot engage in election engineering.

He added that when they proposed that decision in April last year, there were a number of protests and problems because, according to him, some things in Montenegro want to be politicized at any cost.

 "There is no place for politicking or politics, with that decision only one to eight criteria were changed, that is, instead of ten years of continuous residence in Montenegro, five years of continuous residence and five years of temporary residence are considered," said Miljanic and added that it refers to people who have lived in Montenegro for a long time and who got married in Montenegro.

As he stated, 95 or 96 percent of the cases refer to persons who have lived in Montenegro for a long time and who married a Montenegrin citizen in Montenegro.

He stated that none of the cases of requests submitted under that law for obtaining citizenship have been resolved, because the deadline for resolution is one year.

"The Montenegrin Law on Citizenship is quite rigid, among the most rigid, and it should be so, precisely because Montenegro is a small country and demographic changes in the electorate can very easily occur, and thus overall social changes." assessed Miljanic.

Miljanic pointed out that the population census is not a fad and that it is something that happens in all democracies in accordance with the law.

"I don't see any problem in Montenegro not having a population census." "Why shouldn't there be, in accordance with the law and within the time frame prescribed by the law," said Miljanic.

Speaking about the fact that some citizens of Montenegro are also citizens of other countries, he said that they received certain lists from the non-governmental sector and some media.

"We, as a responsible state body, sent all those lists to the countries they refer to, but the answer was negative, so we actually did not get an answer as to which citizens of Montenegro are from Serbia, Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) or some other countries, who are citizens of both countries," said Miljanic.

He added that they have not received a response from Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina because they are restricted by their law on secret data and personal protection.

The podcast of the MINA agency is available at the link: https://youtu.be/0EaJrrL0Los

The podcast and the text were made as part of the project that the MINA agency is implementing with the Center for Monitoring and Research, and which was financially supported by the Embassy of the United States of America in Montenegro.