CEMI - Centar za monitoring i istraživanje

The election campaign in Niksic was marked by tension, pressure and disrespect for epidemiological measures

16. Mar. 2021. in news

The voting process during election day in Niksic was conducted in accordance with domestic legislation and in addition to the challenges posed by pressure on the work of polling stations, verbal conflicts between their members at polling stations, as well as in their immediate vicinity.

The election campaign was marked by strong tension, cases of violence, widespread disrespect for epidemiological measures, violation of election silence, participation of foreign actors from the Republic of Serbia, Republic Srpska and municipalities from the northern part of the Republic of Kosovo. Interference in the pre-election process was particularly pronounced when it comes to media coverage from these countries, which also cover Montenegro.

The voter list for the municipality of Niksic includes almost 1000 double-registered voters, who are also registered in the voter list of the Republic of Serbia.

This is the assessment from the Report on Preliminary Conclusions and Findings "Civic Monitoring of Local Elections in Niksic Montenegro 2021", which was presented by the Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI) at a press conference.

The President of the Management Board of CeMI, Zlatko Vujović, explained that in that organization, they checked the information published in the media, that almost a thousand voters from Nikšić were double enrolled and are on the Voters' List of Serbia.

"That documentation did not contain complete data." It contained part of the data, but it did not contain unique identification numbers, so it was difficult to trust. As CeMI has the right to access the Voters 'List, as an authorized observer, we checked these data in the Voters' List of Montenegro. We found those people, we found unique ID numbers, "said Vujovic.

According to him, out of 969 persons from the list for which CeMI checked, there were no data for eight persons, ie three persons were not registered in the voter list for the Municipality of Niksic, so it was not possible to verify their status in the voter list of another country. and for five persons who were entered in the voter list of Montenegro, there was no data in the Voter List of Serbia.

"Here is a bigger question, not only whether you are on the voter list or not, but also the question of dual citizenship and whether state authorities will carry out checks and initiate the revocation of citizenship of those persons who acquired it illegally," Vujovic pointed out.

He pointed out that this is the first time that the suspicion that there are double-registered voters has been verified and documented.

Vujovic said that the election silence was violated, 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," Vujovic 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 Republic 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, Vujović 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 monitoring 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.