By signing the Code for a Fair and Democratic Electoral Process, all actors of the parliamentary elections have undertaken to uphold the inviolable right of citizens to vote freely.
This was the message conveyed during today’s meeting, during which representatives of electoral lists endorsed the Code for a Fair and Democratic Electoral Process at the initiative of the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT).
Dragan Koprivica, the Executive Director of CDT, said that the Code’s provisions affirm the promotion of non-violence and prevent putting pressure on voters. “Preventing the misuse of public resources and functions, ensuring transparent campaign financing, respecting media freedoms, curbing the spread of misinformation, engaging in responsible behavior on social media, ensuring institutional resolution of disputes, and acceptance of the freely expressed will of the people… in short, today we promote the inviolable right of citizens to vote freely”, Koprivica said.
He added that signing such agreements and making public statements during campaigns represent a sign of democratic progress, especially in politically polarized communities whose electoral process is not fully aligned with democratic standards.
“The Code aims to address the shortcomings of our electoral process and existing electoral legislation by introducing new standards that will be adhered to during the parliamentary elections. In turn, this will contribute to making the elections more competitive while increasing the overall trust of the citizens”, Koprivica said.
He recalled that signing such a code was one of the earlier recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR missions and that similar documents have proven beneficial in contributing to a better election atmosphere.
“Our team, composed of experts in various certain electoral areas and a network of our regional and municipal coordinators, will work in cooperation with the signatories to analyze each individual application and respond accordingly – regardless of whether it is a public appeal and/or the need to inform the competent state authorities. The fact that, according to the available polls, 85–90 percent of the future Parliament sits around one table today is very encouraging… Those who could not be here today are kindly invited to take advantage of the opportunity to accept the provisions of the Code by making a public statement… This leaves space for two lists that were not accepted and that have appealed to the Constitutional Court. If this court decides in their favor they can be part of this activity. Above all, the signing of the Code can be a signal of a different, significantly better and more positive election campaign,” said the director of CDT.
Koprivica also noted that today’s event might mean the continuation of recently observed practices of communicating with those who hold different political opinions in a more respectful and constructive manner.
Electoral lists have also committed to abstain from destroying the campaign materials of other participants in the elections. They have pledged to refrain from anonymous negative campaigns against political opponents, publishing or spreading information from unknown or unverifiable sources, and using social media campaigns to promote violence or intimidate voters.
Vasilije Carapic, a representative of the Europe Now list, said that the conditions for a fair and transparent campaign were created by working on soft law, adding that it is also necessary to work on hard law and implement electoral reform. He added that now there is more talk about programs, visions, and principles and less about nationalist topics that kept dividing Montenegro’s society. “Given that step forward, I think we are ready to complete the electoral reform in the next convocation of the Parliament”, Carapic said.
The representative of the Together for Future list, Aleksandar Bogdanovic, said that a fair political race depends solely on the actions of those who participate in it. He stated that the DPS showed a responsible attitude during the previous election processes and showed that it respects the citizens’ electoral will, which, he added, has been demonstrated by the recent transition of power. “That’s how things should be in the future. That’s how we create the political environment. If we adhere to the provisions of the Code, I am sure that we will succeed in our plan to make society even more democratic and mature after these elections. Only then there will be no losers in the election race,” Bogdanovic said.
The president of the Democrats, Aleksa Becic, said that Montenegro has been continuously maturing in a democratic sense. He expects the upcoming election campaign and elections themselves to be reminiscent of previous ones, with respect for the Code and mutual respect among the lists, and that the election day will be similar to March 19 and April 2 because, as he stated – due to smoothly implemented elections, Montenegro could be the source of envy for more developed democracies.
The representative of the list composed of SNP and Demos, Ljiljana Lutovac, said that by signing the Code, the SNP shows that it respects the electoral will of the citizens.
Damir Gutic from the Bosniak Party said that what gives importance to the Code is that the lists will publicly make additional promises that they will abide by the rules in the campaign. He added that each party should contribute, in proportion to its political power, to ensuring that the election process is fair and proper.
The Movement for Change vice president, Branka Bosnjak, stated that she expects many of the norms outlined in the Code will become laws in the next convocation of the Parliament. “I expect a fair competition. Citizens seem to be finally freed from party pressures and elections increasingly become free of tensions. I expect that it will be the case with these elections as well”, Bošnjak said and added that the citizens should vote freely and that the best should win.
Marash Dukaj, representing the Albanian List, expressed hope that all signatories would honestly implement the provisions of the Code. “We must be aware that the legal framework is discriminatory for Albanians, while the most discriminated against are the Roma. Roma and Egyptians should be part of the process because they are an important factor in our society,” Dukaj said.
The representative of the Albanian Alliance, Ardian Mavric, urged all election participants to act fairly and correctly and refrain from blackmailing the Albanian people, which used to be the practice of larger parties in the past in his words.
SDP representative, Dragica Andjelic, said that it is necessary for citizens to gain more trust in the election process. “The SDP will certainly be dedicated to promoting values and respecting the moral norms of this Code, but of course it cannot be an amendment to the electoral legislation, which needs to undergo the process of amending as soon as possible”, Andjelic said.
The representative of the Preokret (Reversal) movement, Dzevdet Pepic, stated that their Movement would not respond to disrespectful attacks because due to the abundance of insults already present. “We should be political rivals, but in a civil manner. The focus should be on the citizens and their needs, rather than solely on elections and positions”, Pepic stated and added that the “flawed electoral legislation” should be regulated without delay.
The holder of the People’s Coalition list, Dejan Vuksic, said that the acceptance of the Code is a reminder that such an act will be formalized in the coming period and that this is a signal to politicians and future MPs to implement the electoral reform.
The representative of the Justice for All list, Aleksandar Cukovic, said that he sees the Code as an indicator of the progress and maturity of Montenegrin society, and on the other hand, a reminder of the necessary political actions towards further democratization of society.
The holder of the HGI list, Adrijan Vuksanovic, stated that he is glad that we are witnessing new political practices that are encouraging. “We often talk about the need for political stability. Today, we have all gathered around this document. Let this be an image that is much needed for our society and country”, Vuksanovic said.
Mirel Radic, the representative of the We Can list, said that everything incorporated in the Code is necessary for Montenegro’s political climate. She highlighted the lack of respect for women’s role in politics in Montenegro and added that it is impossible to achieve a greater presence of women in politics through parties.
The Code for a Fair and Democratic Election Campaign is available in both English and Albanian.