SEC persist in violation of the Constitution and Law of Montenegro

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) indicates that the State Election Commission (SEC), with its yesterday’s announcement, is trying to mislead the public through the changes of the previously enacted Technical Recommendations for the Epidemiological Protection of Voters During Elections that are neither essential nor these solve the key issues that we have pointed out in the previous days.

Firstly, the SEC should agree with itself and be consistent in its positions. It is confusing that SEC spokesman publicly admits that they are aware of the unconstitutionality of the acts they have passed, and that upon that the SEC in a statement first claims that everything is in accordance with the Constitution and the Law, and in the next paragraph informs the public that they have deleted exactly one of the disputed provisions.

Secondly, the SEC states in its amendments that persons who have been placed in institutional quarantine facility outside the place of residence will be allowed to vote. However, the SEC does not explain in detail the voting procedure for these persons.

Thirdly, the SEC does not intend to align the remaining valid part of the disputed provisions with the Constitution, Law and bylaws, which would ensure the possibility of legal voting for these persons.

The CCE reminds that voting by letter for persons in quarantine and self-isolation is not legal, as the Law on the Election of Councilors and MPs, as well as the Rules on voting by letter adopted by the SEC do not envisage such situation. The possibility of categorizing a person in quarantine or self-isolation under hospital or home treatment is out of the question, since that position is generally not based on an appropriate diagnosis or medical report, but on a decision of the competent authority as a measure to prevent infectious diseases.

Lasting and numerous criticisms of the SEC must have resulted in a more serious approach and fundamental changes of disputed Technical Recommendations but not by deleting half of one sentence from this act. Namely, in practice, this does not solve the issue of the manner of voting of persons in quarantine and self-isolation, but represents an attempt of the SEC to quickly, superficially and manipulatively remove the argument based criticism of the interested public and to avoid its commitments. Furthermore, the call of the SEC sent to the expert public to propose solutions in two days, and only when the SEC itself was „cornered“ by illegal actions, is unprecedented. It is also not clear what the representatives of political entities and NGOs are doing in the SEC if they cannot respond to their obligations in a dedicated and knowledgeable manner, although they receive compensation and they were united in increasing them exactly during this period.

The CCE again urges the SEC to meet its obligations and to finally pay due attention to the organization of the elections. There are only three weeks left until election day and the SEC has not yet managed to produce solutions to the basic open issues of these parliamentary elections, which could jeopardize the legitimacy and legality of the election process itself.

The CCE has previously initiated the constitutional review of the SEC’s Technical Recommendations, urging the Constitutional Court of Montenegro to rule on this issue as a matter of urgency.

Damir Suljević, programme associate