SEC once again “embraced” party interests

Centre for Civic Education (CCE) draws the attention of the interested public to the controversial decisions of the State Election Commission (SEC), which, over the past two days, has been considering complaints regarding the conduct of early parliamentary elections at certain polling stations in several Montenegrin municipalities. The SEC’s decisions on these complaints are mostly illegal, and part of it is the result of reckless moves that further deepen legal uncertainty and mistrust in the fairness of the electoral process.

Namely, on Saturday evening (17 June), the SEC considered the complaint of Oskar Huter from the DPS, which disputes the decision of the Election Commission of the Capital City of Cetinje to hold a re-vote at one polling station in the city following the accepted complaint from the SDP and the annulment of the election results. The same evening, a decision was also made on the complaint of Boško Vlahović from Nova regarding the identical decision on a repeat vote made by the Election Commission of Kolašin, which accepted the complaint of the representative of the list led by Vladimir Leposavić and annulled the election results at one polling station in Kolašin.

By accepting these complaints, the SEC annulled the decisions on repeat elections in these municipalities. However, the basis for making these decisions, in the form of act of the Election Commission of the Capital City and the Election Commission of Kolašin, annulling the election results, remain in force. The proposal to provide instructions to these election commissions through SEC’s solutions annulling these decisions was not accepted, thus disregarding even the elementary procedure.

It should be emphasized that these preliminary decisions of the Election Commission of the Capital City and the Election Commission of Kolašin had to be annulled due to their shortcomings. However, this should have been accompanied by specific instructions to these commissions, considering the complexity of the situation and the SEC’s obligation to demonstrate responsibility for the legal consequences that the annulment of these decisions may have.

Unconscionability in decision-making reached a new dimension in the case of complaints addressed to the SEC by the SDP, which were the subject of discussion on Sunday evening (18 June). These complaints referred to irregularities at three polling stations in three municipalities – Cetinje, Rožaje, and Bijelo Polje. After examining the election material from the three contested polling stations, the SEC identified irregularities in terms of the number of ballot papers and pieces of paper, the number of ballot papers, and signatures in the extracts from the voter register. The SEC harshly ignored the fact that the difference was significant at some polling stations and that the provisions of the Law on the Election of Councilors and MPs stipulate the annulment of results and the repetition of elections in situations where the number of used ballot papers exceeds the number of voters who participated. Hence, these complaints were rejected.

Such conduct by the SEC is unlawful. Furthermore, the SEC once again exceeded its authority and allowed, despite explicit legal provisions assessed alleged rationality in not repeating the elections at these three polling stations.

The CCE warns against the dangerous practice of subordinating the law to decision-making within the SEC based on the current party interests of its members who represent political parties. Also, the CCE points out that, unfortunately, there is no difference among the SEC members who represent political parties when faced with the dilemma of whether to follow party interests or the law, i.e., the public interest, and they always choose to align themselves with the party.

Damir Suljević, Programme Associate and member of the SEC