Editor’s Note: Legal Redress in Electoral Law

The 2020 political changes have not resulted in a long-awaited electoral reform, despite the fact that the new government constituents for years, and even decades spent in opposition, had been building their election campaigns, inter alia, around the idea that Montenegro needs a more just election process, deprived of procedural violations, misuse of resources or voters being brought under pressure.

Due to numerous weaknesses of the election process, lawfulness and credibility of elections have for decades been challenged through boycotts and protests, rather than being channelled through institutional mechanisms, and only in the last two election cycles the losing parties conceded defeat; the research, on the other hand, shows lack of trust in electoral institutions and outcomes among a substantial number of citizens In the framework of the upcoming electoral law reform, Centre for Democratic Transition (CDT) intends to place focus on the concept of electoral justice, as one of the key dimensions of the rule of law in democracies.

Irregularities, errors and violations are inevitable in any election process, and there is always a chance that individuals and organisations will try to undermine the election process to pursue their interests. An efficient electoral justice system plays a crucial role in ensuring that election results are perceived as legitimate and credible.

We will be addressing the matter of protection of voting rights by two publications, one focusing only on the election process and issues most tightly related to the exercise of rights in such process, while the other publication will be dedicated to protection mechanisms ensured by criminal legislation. Over the course of more than 20 years of observing election processes, CDT has seen hundreds of situations where it was not possible to rectify injustices or errors by means of electoral disputes, punish wrong and unlawful actions or inactions, or ensure protection of active or passive suffrage in line with universally accepted standards of free election.

The reform efforts ahead of us require an analysis and rectification of such shortcomings. This is the time when consideration must be given to expanding the group of persons with standing to file electoral complaints, in line with good comparative practices. To ensure an effective legal remedy, the law should be amended so as to allow for judicial review of all types of decisions made by the State Election Commission (SEC), including those that uphold decisions of lower commissions, but also the review of any action or inaction of the election management bodies. International standards also recommend ensuring an election results review mechanism.

Following repeated international recommendations, efforts should be made to increase transparency and accountability of the Constitutional Court, ensure that electoral disputes are resolved in sessions open to the public, regulate the rights and participation methods of parties to proceedings, introduce a requirement for the Constitutional Court to publish and timely deliver to parties all electoral appeals and decisions.

There is also much room for improvement of the procedure for protecting the right to be included in the electoral register, by means of precise procedural provisions which would give better guarantees for the exercise of rights, while also facilitating the work of relevant institutions. The upcoming electoral reform is an opportunity to begin rebuilding trust in election processes, and such effort inherently entails the establishment of a fair and credible electoral justice system, which will be used to correct errors, uphold the right to vote and punish violations of rights.

This publication is developed in the framework of the ‘’Focus on Electoral Reform: It is time!“ project, implemented by the Centre for Democratic Transition (CDT) in cooperation with the Association for Responsible and Sustainable Development (UZOR) and Association of Youth with Disabilities (AYDM), with the support of the European Union provided through the Delegation of the European Union to Montenegro. The content of this publication is the sole responsibility of CDT and does not necessarily reflect the views of the European Union.

We remain open to public dialogue concerning the content of our publications, and to any well-intentioned suggestions and criticism.

The complete analysis ”Legal Redress in Electoral Law” is available here.

CDT Team