Initiate the change in electoral rules as soon as possible

The Center for Democratic Transition (CDT) calls upon the Parliament of Montenegro and all Parliamentary clubs to promptly initiate the work of the Electoral Law Reform Committee.

We urge members of parliament coming from the ruling majority as well as the opposition to demonstrate through concrete actions that they refuse to accept flawed and semi-democratic electoral processes. Their priority should be establishing a transparent, modern, and fair electoral environment, which serves as a solid foundation for building essential democratic institutions.

Considering that political options represented in the new Parliament have, for an extended period, including the last electoral process, emphasized the need for corrections and had concrete proposals for changing the electoral system and legislation, we are of the opinion that the current political moment is suitable for reinitiating this process. The failure of the previous attempt at electoral reform should remind us of the necessity for genuine dialogue and the pursuit of compromises.

In this context, we are concerned that, apart from a segment regarding the financing of political entities, the Prime Minister’s exposé did not even mention electoral reform. Considering that this topic was also absent from the speech of the newly elected Speaker of the Parliament, it is a legitimate question whether the coalition government has abandoned these critically important changes they passionately advocated for over the years.

We hope that issues such as inaccurate voter register, the depoliticization of the election administration, the introduction of open lists, foreign influences, disinformation, and other significant issues have not suddenly become insignificant to the members of the Parliament of Montenegro. We expect that future actions, particularly by the representatives of the parliamentary majority, will dispel our current impression that the enhancement of essential democratic instruments and principles has been sidelined in their initial activities.

Therefore, it is crucial to establish the Electoral Reform Committee as soon as possible and initiate an honest and open political dialogue in order to analyze all contentious matters and seek honest consensus in line with international electoral standards.

In addition to the parliamentary clubs’ agreement on the composition and operational rules of the Committee, we believe that achieving full transparency and inclusivity is now more important than ever. This can be done by involving experts and organizations that have expertise in this field.

In its publication “35 Recommendations for Electoral Reform,” published in July of this year, CDT outlined its vision for the fundamental directions of changing the set of laws that are directly or indirectly related to the electoral process. These recommendations result from our organization’s decades-long work on election observation projects in Montenegro and our experience participating in the electoral reform committees formed in 2013, 2018, and 2021 as non-voting members and the only civil society organization consistently involved in the process. We believe it is high time to adopt at least a part of these recommendations.

In the new political circumstances, there should be both the political need and the political will of all relevant actors represented in the Parliament of Montenegro to conclude this process. Meeting this crucial need is essential for the democratization of our society and a commitment on our path towards European Union integration. Keeping the public promises made by political entities to citizens over an extended period is equally important.

Dragan Koprivica, Executive Director of CDT