CEMI - Centar za monitoring i istraživanje

Withdraw from the procedure of amending the Law on Local Self-Government

08. Nov. 2021. in news

There is a strong debate in the media these days about the dates of the local elections in the three Montenegrin municipalities in which they have already been called, in accordance with the Constitution and the election law. A proposal for amendments to the Law on Local Self-Government was submitted in the procedure, which is an attempt to stop the holding of already announced elections.

CeMI strongly supports the idea of uniting the holding of local elections in all municipalities in one day, but also believes that the announced elections must be held within the constitutional and legal deadline. The EU's recommendation is to consider holding local elections on the same day through the work of the parliamentary committee on electoral reform. The problem is not in the justification of the idea, but in the way it tries to be realized.

The solution cannot be in extending the mandate of municipal assemblies, but it can be in shortening them. The agreement between the government and the opposition should be to hold local elections simultaneously in all 24 Montenegrin municipalities without exception, perhaps in May next year, regardless of how many are left until the end of the mandate, including those in which elections are held in December this year. This would lead to a constitutional and democratic solution to holding elections in all municipalities at the same time, and not as proposed only in some of them.

Consideration should also be given to abolishing the possibility of early local elections, following the example of Bosnia and Herzegovina, ie to know the date of the local elections 4 years earlier, again on the same day, regardless of whether some ruling coalitions have disintegrated in the meantime.

It is unacceptable for the elected councilors to be extended for half a year after the expiration of their term. In that way, the councilors would manage the municipalities illegally and illegitimately for half a year longer. Citizens are the bearers of sovereignty, which they temporarily transfer to MPs / councilors for a specific period of time, in our country for 4 years. No one but them can authorize someone to rule on their behalf. Such rule cannot be recognized because it does not come from the citizens. Parliament cannot be above the will of the citizens.

The Law on Election of Councilors and and Members of the Parliament, in its Article 5, is clear when it says that the mandate of a councilor and MP lasts 4 years. A 2/3 majority is needed to change this law.

One of the basic principles of organizing democratic elections in Europe is that elections must be held regularly. The 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document sets the standard for the frequency of elections, which requires that democratic elections be held within reasonable intervals established by law. Elections are required to be held in accordance with the existing legal framework and to be scheduled within the timeframes set by that framework.

It is completely unacceptable to change the legal framework during the election process, especially which aims to abolish the ongoing election process. This would be an unprecedented example in democratic countries, and would severely damage the rule of law and electoral freedoms in Montenegro.

The proposers neglect that the election administration is competent to conduct elections in accordance with the Constitution and the Law on the Election of Councilors and MPs. The disintegration of the election administration should be prevented at all costs if the municipal elections are to take place, and the State Election Commission does not do that. It would do irreparable damage to the integrity of the election process. We take this opportunity to invite the Parliament of Montenegro to elect the President of the State Election Commission.

We suggest that the proposers withdraw the proposal from the procedure and that within the parliamentary committee the government and the opposition agree to hold local elections in one day in each of the 24 municipalities of Montenegro, without exception, but in a constitutional and legal manner with the procedures and deadlines running on December 5 this year. The agreement should include holding early parliamentary and presidential elections in late 2022 or early 2023 following electoral reform.