Spajic’s proposal is sound: A formal dialogue must be initiated on a new census date and other important issues

The Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) considers the expressed intent of the Prime Minister-designate of the new Montenegrin government, Milojko Spajic, to postpone the census originally scheduled for November 1st to be the right decision.

Given the highly unfavorable political climate for conducting the census, the announced boycott, potential safety issues for enumerators and citizens, and inappropriate influences from Serbia and certain religious communities, primarily the Serbian Orthodox Church (S0C), we believe this would be the sound decision.

Furthermore, this announcement holds great importance in light of the message from the European Parliament that the census should be postponed. We are of the opinion Montenegro must follow and respect the suggestions it receives from well-intentioned European addresses.

In particular, it is of utmost importance to formally and legally implement this intention. Considering that the caretaker Prime Minister has repeatedly asserted that the census will not be postponed, it is important to quickly repeal the existing Regulation on the Determination of the Period for Conducting the Census of Population, Households, and Dwellings and the reference moment for the Census.

In this context, it is worth noting that the current Regulation defines the start of the census as November 1st. Since the Regulation remains in effect until it is repealed or amended, we may find ourselves in a rather confusing situation if Milojko Spajic’s government is not elected by that date and the caretaker government of Dritan Abazovic remains unwilling to postpone the census. On the one hand, the existing Regulation obliges Monstat to carry out the census, while on the other, the future Prime Minister is announcing its postponement.

Additionally, the question remains open as to whether a one-month delay is sufficient to overcome all the challenges so that the census is conducted in line with the principles of official statistics and international standards.

Therefore, CDT calls for an inclusive and open dialogue on the new date of the census and all other open issues related to it.

The new government carries a great responsibility: it is necessary to significantly increase the inclusivity of the process by constituting a formally organized forum for conducting this dialogue, consisting of politically relevant actors and users of statistics who would directly communicate their comments and demands to decision-makers without unnecessary delays. This body should be chaired by the Prime Minister or the Minister of Finance, and it should include the director and deputy director of Monstat, as well as all key actors who have submitted their proposals in the previous period. We also believe that the first decision of this body should be the annulment of the call for the selection of municipal instructors and enumerators in all municipalities. Decisions must be made quickly and decisively, and we hope the new government will avoid repeating the mistakes the previous one made.

We believe this is an important opportunity for all political actors to finally move away from exclusive and competitive politics at any cost, return to a culture of conducting genuine and open dialogues with those who hold differing views, and thus prevent the possible escalation of issues that the census may bring.

We hope politicians will finally become aware that the consequences of conducting the census in an unfavorable climate extend far beyond the conclusion of the census or the announcement of its results. These consequences will persist for years, be a source of tension, and impede the progress of this society towards the EU.

Dragan Koprivica

Executive Director of CDT