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Centre for Civic Education (CCE) calls upon Luidj Skrelja, President of the Administrative Committee of the Parliament of Montenegro, to promptly, in line with article 42 para 4 of the Rules of Procedure, convene a session of the Committee and to open competition for the President of State Elections Commission (SEC).
We remind that Djordjije Vukcevic, president of the SEC, according to his own words, notified the Parliament, on October 2019, that he will turn 67 years on 17 January 2020. Furthermore, this fact was also known to the MPs within the Administrative Committee, during the nomination of Vukcevic for the President of the SEC.
As the Administrative Committee, for three months, did nothing concerning this issue, it is about time to finally open the competition since the term of office of the current president of the SEC is terminated today by the force of law.
Centre for Civic Education (CCE) notes that inconsistent statements and legal interpretations by the President of the Administrative Committee, Luidj Skrelja, and the President of the State Election Commission (SEC), Djordjije Vukcevic, represent convincing reflection of the state of the institutions that need to control the most important process in a democratic society, i.e. the electoral process.
From Vukcevic’s statement one can conclude that he informed the Parliament of Montenegro about his eligibility for an old-age pension on 10 October 2019, which is true, but his interpretation that he may remain in his current position until the Parliament decides otherwise is disputable. Also, the question arises: why has the Parliament taken nothing for more than three months to elect a new president, especially knowing that 2020 is an election year?
In the situation undoubtedly caused by the Parliament there are two possible solutions. The first is the SEC’s paralysis until the election of a new president, which is the most probable consequence of this situation. The second is that the Parliament decides not to respect the law that has itself enacted and to retain Vukcevic in position until the election of a new SEC president, which he actually suggests. Of course, we can also hypothetically think about the third one, which would only be legal, although it is impossible – to somehow rejuvenated Vukcevic.
The ambiguities are further compounded by the statement of the president of the Administrative Committee, Luidj Skrelja, who says with certainty that “the SEC will have a new president by March“. It should be recalled that the current SEC’s president was elected after two unsuccessfully announced calls, thus the election of a new president waited more than four months. Vukcevic was elected president of the SEC in March last year because the term of the previous president of the SEC, Budimir Saranovic, expired on 7 October 2018. Therefore, it is unclear how Skrelja can now in advance and with certainty claim that this procedure will be so quick and efficient.
Symptoms of a stagnation in the SEC’s work are already visible, because after the outbreak of the affair, this institution has stopped submitting the requested information under the Law on Free Access to Information within the legal deadline.
Time is running out and this situation indicates that in an election year we will have some forced solution for such a responsible position, and this can have very serious consequences on the election process legitimacy.
Vasilije Radulovic, Programme Associate
Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern about the increasing frequency of detention of journalists, based on the assessment that the information they publish influence dissemination of panic and riots. Recent cases of journalists Gojko Raicevic and Drazen Zivkovic, and earlier of journalist Andjela Djikanovic, point to elements of abuse of such conduct by the Prosecution. There are self-regulatory and regulatory mechanisms for violation of professional standards, while this restrictive approach can be misused and poses a threat not for fake news but fot freedom of expression.
At the same time, the CCE urges all media and journalists to respect the Code of Journalists Ethics of Montenegro. We ourselves had negative experience during 2018 when we were targets of an unprecedented negative campaign with a large number of fake news publicised by part of media. Therefore, we appeal to all journalists to be guided by due journalistic diligence, professional standards and to verfy the information they publish.
Centre for Civic Education (CCE) expresses concern over the fact that mandate of the President of the State Election Commission (SEC), Djordje Vukcevic, expires on 17 January this year, i.e. in a week, as he turns 67, and that the call for the election of new president of the SEC has not yet been announced. Hence, this central electoral institution will be unable to hold sessions and conduct other regular activities during the election year, which additionally and unnecessarily burdens the ongoing problems related to the electoral issues.
According to the Law on Election of Councillors and Members of Parliament, the president of the SEC is appointed by the Parliament, following the proposal of the Administrative Committee, after previously conducted public call. The Administrative Committee has the competence to timely announce a call and to conduct necessary procedure.
Considering the length of the procedure for electing a new president of the SEC, it is already clear that the SEC will, at best, get a new president by the end of the first quarter, and meanwhile it will be paralyzed. This situation in the SEC, which is already burdened with affairs related to respect for laws and internal acts, does not contribute to raising citizens’ confidence in the electoral process, which this institution should take the lead as its mission is to control the regularity of the electoral process.