In Montenegro, the PACE pre-electoral delegation hopes that the stalemate of the Constitutional Court will be unblocked in time for the Presidential election
A delegation (*) of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) was in Podgorica on 23 and 24 February 2023 to assess the pre-electoral climate of the presidential election scheduled for 19 March 2023.
The delegation, led by Joe O’Reilly (Ireland, EPP/CD), welcomed the fact that preparations for the election are in progress. However, following its discussions with various interlocutors, it considered necessary to underline a series of shortcomings, particularly the crucial need to ensure that the composition of the Constitutional Court is completed or at least that it has a quorum in order to be able to validate the election result.
Moreover, the delegation was informed about the stagnation of the reform of the electoral legislative framework, the high level of corruption in the country and persistent doubts about the independence of the judiciary.
The delegation was disappointed to note the continued culture of procrastination and lack of political will to take important decisions.
Some interlocutors expressed concern about the politicisation of the decision-making of the State Election Commission leading to an uneven playing field among presidential contenders. One prominent candidate was disqualified further to an allegedly politically-motivated and split vote within the SEC; moreover, the current paralysis of the Constitutional Court left him with no possibility of redress.
The media environment was considered as being generally healthy although highly politicised which in turn led to self-censorship by journalists. Pressure on journalists is unfortunately also not a thing of the past. The delegation was concerned that the ownership and control of a number of media portals is not transparent.
The delegation noted with regret that the misuse of public funds had become normalised and was taken for granted by the electorate.
The voters register was widely criticised as being in disorder, with large numbers of persons having emigrated remaining on the register as a result of the residency criteria being poorly defined.
Greater transparency in campaign funding was also felt to be necessary.
The delegation noted an under-representation of women at all levels of the electoral process.
The delegation fully understands that some of the issues above cannot be dealt with in the short time left before election day, but strongly hopes that at least those which can still be addressed – in particular nominating the 4 missing judges within the Constitutional Court – will indeed be addressed.
The PACE pre-electoral delegation was in Podgorica at the invitation of the President of the Parliament. It met with presidential candidates or their representatives, leaders and representatives of the main parliamentary groups, the Chairman and members of the State Election Commission, the Minister of Public Administration, members of the delegation to PACE, representatives of civil society and of the media, the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission and with diplomats present in Podgorica.
A full-fledged 22-member delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe will arrive in Montenegro prior to the presidential election to observe the vote.
– Joe O’Reilly (Ireland, Group of the European People’s Party), head of delegation;
– Domagoj Hajduković (Croatia, Socialists, Democrats and Greens Group)
– Tamara Vonta (Slovenia, Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe);
– Simone Billi (Italy, European Conservatives Group and Democratic Alliance);
– Damien Cottier (Switzerland), PACE rapporteur for the post-monitoring dialogue