Councilors – representatives of citizens or interests of political parties?

The Coalition for Transparency and Fight against Corruption at the Local Level (KUM) notes that democracy at the local level in Montenegro is not sufficiently developed. Challenges are particularly identified in insufficient understanding of the role of councilors in local parliaments and the need for continuous communication with citizens even after the end of electoral procedures. However, last developments in Bar, Zabljak and Podgorica are announcing waking up of the awareness of citizens who insist on supremacy of public over political party interest.

Unfortunately, we are witnessing cases that warn that citizens’ participation in decision-making processes at the local level ends with elections. Surveys indicate that citizens do not sufficiently use mechanisms of local democracy (public hearings, civic initiatives, consultative referendums, local communities, citizens’ associations, etc.). On the other hand, local self-governments are not sufficiently proactive to involve citizens in consultation on important issues.

Koalicija KUM

Consequently, many times before, interest of the party and some other particular interest were ahead of the interests of city, municipality and citizens, but it is encouraging that the last such cases encountered strong civil resistance. Problems in democracy at the local level arise when citizens want to be further involved in planning and considering further development of municipalities / cities, ending established practice of not being consulted or that decisions that affect the quality of their lives are brought against their will. The last cases in Podgorica, Bar and Zabljak pointed out the lack of communication between local authorities and citizens, as well as attempts to plan development of municipality against will and interests of citizens. Many media reported about the cases of “Barrack” and “Block 5” in Podgorica, and especially about the case of an attempt to build a new kindergarten in Bar in front of the gymnasium or an attempt to build bungalows on the Black Lake. This raises the question to what extent the councilors have managed the votes that had put them in a position to make decisions and whose interests they actually represented – interests of certain businessmen close to the authorities or interests of citizens and the municipalities themselves?

When it comes to the strange actions of councilors, it should also be recalled case of Cetinje, where the local parliament organized its ninth session within urgent procedure, on which it passed decision on election of a new member of the Committee on Finance and Economic Development, acknowledging the decision of the councilor of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) to exclude himself from the members club of that party, in order to vote for the budget proposal of the leading coalition in the eighth session, replacing colleague from the Social Democrats (SD), the coalition partner of the party he left.

Seldomlu or never the councilors decide to vote different from official attitude of their party, which relativizes the basic reason why citizens elect their representatives in local parliaments – which is the representation of their interest.

The KUM coalition considers that it is important to open discussion on relationship between councilors and citizens, and in order to contribute to resolving issues of great importance for local communities in Montenegro which can not and should not be the subject of party or party related deals.

The Coalition for Transparency and Fight against Corruption at the Local Level (KUM) consists of 18 CSOs as follows: Centre for Civic Education (CCE), Centre for Monitoring and Research (CeMI), UL-Info from Ulcinj, Institute Alternative (IA), Za Druga from Petrovac, Centre for Development of Non-Governmental Organisations (CDNGO), Juventas, Bonum from Pljevlja, Active Zone from Cetinje, Democratic Centre of Bijelo Polje, Centre for Investigative Journalism of Montenegro (CIJ MNE), Union of Doctors of Medicine of Montenegro, Centre for Security, Sociological and Criminological Research “Defendology” from Niksic, Monitoring Group Ulcinj – MogUL, Centre for Political Education from Niksic, NGO Da zazivi selo from Pljevlja, Monitor’s Centre for Democracy and Media (MCDM) and Association Dr Martin Schneider-Jacoby from Ulcinj.

The Coalition was formed within the framework of the project “Let’s Put Corruption into Museum!” implemented by the CCE in cooperation with partners and with the support of the EU Delegation to Montenegro and the Ministry of Public Administration of the Government of Montenegro. The views expressed in this announcement are the sole responsibility of the Coalition KUM and do not necessarily reflect the views of the EU and the Ministry of Public Administration.