Electoral manifestos mostly ignored civil society

Centre for Civic Education (CCE), after analyzing the election manifestos, notes that most participants in the parliamentary elections in Montenegro, held on Sunday, 11 June, did not specifically address the position of civil society in Montenegro in their election manifestos. More precisely, out of 15 electoral lists and 14 analyzed manifestos (one list did not have a written programme), only five had sections related to civil society in those documents. This primarily applies to political entities with a smaller number of mandates or those who did not surpass the electoral threshold, and even in those programmes, the percentage dedicated to this issue ranges from 0.10% (Movement for Changes) to 2.6% (Albanian Forum), with the remaining lists such as Reversal (0.3%), “We can” (0.6%), and Bosniak Party (1.3%) falling in between.

The issue of civil society received the most attention in the election manifesto of the Albanian Forum. It emphasizes that NGOs play an important role in artistic, cultural, social and political life, and that, appreciating the contribution of civil society in the public life of Montenegro, in the cities where they operate, they will support the engagement of NGOs that are in the interest of the common good. The election manifesto of the Bosniak Party states that the civil sector and NGOs are the initiators of many actions and issues, corrective and partners in the democratic development of society, as well as that their representatives should be an integral part of all processes. Through the election manifesto, this party also promises to advocate for the strengthening of the civil sector and to support NGO projects in all spheres of society. Electoral list Yes. We can for civic Montenegro states that in the Technology Park, the construction of which is nearing completion, they will initiate the formation of a technological incubator that should enable start-ups to develop a new type of enterprise in many areas. They also see this park as a place of continuous education for local self-government bodies, businessmen and the NGO sector. From the Reversal movement, in the part of priorities related to public administration and interior affairs, they say that it is necessary to strengthen cooperation with the NGO sector, do everything to make them independent and facilitate their administrative requests to the competent institutions. In its election manifesto, the Movement for Change (PZP) underlined that the civil sector should be made a partner at all levels of decision-making.

CCE points out a growing trend of politicians adopting an increasingly dangerous approach towards the critically oriented NGO sector, often resorting to various (in)direct threats targeting NGOs in the absence of valid arguments to critics to whom they are exposed. In this context, judging by the election manifestos, it does not seem that there will be positive changes, as those currently entering the Parliament, with the exception of the Albanian Forum and the Bosniak Party, are at the very least disregarding the NGO sector. There was an underlined obligation for those who have recently adopted a confrontational or threatening tone towards the NGO sector to change this undemocratic approach.

CCE emphasizes that the lack of cooperation between the NGO sector and decision-makers limits society’s ability to effectively tackle current challenges and find constructive and sustainable solutions. We remind that the April MNE Pulse,  which the CCE is implementing in collaboration with Damar agency, showed that NGOs are at within the top of those who have the trust of citizens, while political parties are at the bottom of the same scale. The continuous decline in trust in political parties got one of its reflections in the until now unrecorded low voter turnout in the recently held elections, and we believe that even the decision-makers, who want to be recognized as democratic, do not benefit from an undemocratic position towards the NGO sector.

A review of the elective manifestos in this part was made through the programme of the Centre for Civic Education (CCE), supported through the Core grant regional project SMART BalkanCivil society for a connected Western Balkans, which is implemented by the Centre for the Promotion of Civil Society (CPCD), the Centre for Research and of Public Policy (CRPM) and the Institute for Democracy and Mediation (IDM) and is financially supported by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway. The content of the text is the sole responsibility of the author and does not necessarily reflect the views of CPCD, CRPM, IDM and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Kingdom of Norway.

Nikola Obradović, Project Assistant