Citizens must have an effective capacity of influencing the decisions of authorities

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), in the light of the current changes to the Constitution, renews its call to change the constitutional norm that defines the so-called “right of citizens initiative”. This norm does not encourage active citizenship, which is an essential precondition for the democratization of Montenegrin society and building of democratic political culture.

CCE calls for change of the article 93 of Montenegrin Constitution, according to which “the right to propose laws has six thousand voters, through member of Parliament whom they have given an authorization.” This definition of the institution of genuine civic initiative in the Montenegrin reality metamorphosed into a party institute, whereby at loss were exactly the citizens of Montenegro. Specifically, in the Parliament, instead of citizens, a draft of an initiative proposal, law or other text must be introduced by a member of certain political group. This inevitably leads to the labeling of the initiative, which automatically suppresses such initiative in its embryo, as we are witnessing the practice by which MP’s consider more important a person who is submitting a proposal rather than the very content and expediency of the proposal.

Citizens’ initiative is a form of direct democracy, or the ability of citizens to directly propose to the National Parliament an adoption of a legislation and other solutions that directly enhances their lives by addressing social problems which politicians often ignore despite the mood of the public or particular groups of citizens. Constitution acts of the neighboring countries (e.g. Serbia) or those who once shared our legal system, and now are in the EU (e.g. Slovenia), as well as countries with engrained democratic tradition, do not recognize the limitation at which citizens upon submission of the bill must be determined by the MP of certain political party. The question is: why did Montenegrin MPs restrict this right for their own citizens?

Introducing the Electronic petition by the Government of Montenegro, one step backwards has been made in achieving the constitutionally guaranteed civil rights. The Constitution guarantees citizens that when they compile 6,000 signatures of support, their proposal automatically becomes a legislative proposal on which Parliament has to decide, but if for the government’s petition, you compile 6,000 signatures, the Government will review it and, contrary to the Constitution, “if necessary, submit it to the Parliament for consideration.” Specifically, the census of 6,000 signatures for electronic petition is not appropriate for society where citizens are still not well educated about their rights and manners of exercising them. Upon the dysfunctionality of the governments portal E-petition speaks the fact that after three months, only one petition succeeded in reaching 6,000 signatures of support, and only after extensive public campaign, although it was a matter of social significance, that is, construction of a kindergarten due to the existing lack of capacities to accommodate children.

CCE urges all political parties to demonstrate their democratic capacity by supporting this proposal, and thereby show that they do not want to monopolize the space to influence decisions of the public interest nor to manipulate the same for the sake of their party interests, but to show to citizens that they are in the centre. This specifically includes issuance of the effective opportunities for enabling citizens to directly propose initiatives and to exclude them from the disputes of the parties, whose results often have nothing to do with the public interest.

Danilo Ajković, Programme Associate