Centre for Civic Education (CCE), assessing the election manifestos, determined that despite the fact that the Parliamentary elections were held during the pandemic, health care was not in the focus of the election actors.
Out of 11 electoral lists, 10 addressed health in some manner. The general impression is that in-depth analyzes were lacking, and few of them offered specific measures for improvement in this area. Besides, there are even fewer who mentioned the coronavirus pandemic, and even when they did, it was usually in the context of economic consequences. None of the electoral lists presented the measures to be taken to respond more effectively to the pandemic, to reduce the burden on the health system and to raise public awareness of the importance of respect for pandemic measures. Moreover, the representatives of all lists, when it suited them, were relaxed about the measures, which had an impact on the escalation of this problem. Mass rallies in recent months have rarely passed without politicians of various profiles with the accompanying accusation of others, and without self-reflection and self-criticism.
Most parties maintained a general commitment to better health and access to health care for all categories of society, regardless of socio-economic status, but without explaining what this means in practice. It remains unclear what those electoral lists mean, which state that they will work on the prevention of the health of children of preschool and school-age, considering that Montenegro has been conducting mandatory systematic examinations and vaccinations for that age for decades. Also, although the media and civil society raised the issue of high drug prices in Montenegro compared to the region, only the “Black and White” coalition proposed stronger control over drug costs and the definition of a maximum drug price. The recent opposition also emphasized the importance of depoliticizing the Medical Chamber and employment in the public health system. Although Montenegro has been at the top of the countries with the highest suicide rate for years and that the use of antidepressants is higher than the European average, only one list – the Social Democrats (SD) – ambitiously enumerating health institutions that plan to build or renovate they also mentioned the Mental Health Clinic.
Most electoral lists recognize as important issues the improvement of the material status of health workers and support during training. Regarding that, the opposition lists linked the poor financial condition of health workers with the brain drain in this branch, but without more precise proposals for changing that condition. Few mention a special housing policy for healthcare workers and job provision after specialization as an intervention measure, and some raised the issue of the modernization of healthcare infrastructures, such as the “Black and White” list, SD and SDP, which talk about the reconstruction of many facilities, or Albanian list that emphasizes the construction of a hospital in Ulcinj. For the DPS, the Institute for Sports Medicine stands out as something especially new and useful, and for the coalition “Peace is our nation”, the issue of health protection in Pljevlja.
The position of certain electoral lists, which place the issue of women’s health exclusively in the context of reproductive health, is worrying. Special attention is paid to the health of pensioners, but with the fact other categories deserve similar attention but may not be adults, it can be concluded that it was more in the function of collecting votes than genuine care for that category of the population.
On average, health care makes up 5% of election manifestos, with variations among the lists, hence it is most represented in the coalition “Black and White” with 13.6%, and it is not present at all in the coalition “For the Future of Montenegro” programme.
This year has harshly reminded us of the importance of health policies and investments in health for overall health and the functioning of society. The parties that participate in the elections and can give a strategic answer to questions of public importance have a prominent role in that. When it comes to health care, and especially in a pandemic situation, unfortunately, judging by the programmes and practice, the outgoing and new government keep this issue unacceptably low on their list of priorities.
Biljana Popović, Project assistant