Legal chaos in Šavnik: No new elections, no compulsory administration

Although the Śavnica parliament preempted the government from introducing forced administration, there will be no new elections in that municipality because the head of state claims that there is no legal basis to call them. "If by any chance Milatović had acted differently, he would have legitimized in law the groundless decisions of the Government and the Šavnik Municipality", assesses Damir Suljević.

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Claims that there is no legally valid basis to call elections: Milatović, Photo: BORIS PEJOVIC
Claims that there is no legally valid basis to call elections: Milatović, Photo: BORIS PEJOVIC
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

There will be no new local elections in Savnik, nor will forced administration be introduced in that municipality.

This is the epilogue of yesterday's moves by the head of state Jakov Milatović and the cabinet of Prime Minister Milojko Spajić, after which there is no sign of a resolution of the complicated political situation in the town of Poddurmitor, where the elections that began almost a year and a half ago have not yet ended. On the contrary, the circumstances have become even more complicated, so the question is whether, in the current circumstances, anything other than the completion of the elections that have started can solve the Šavnica rebus.

The day before yesterday, the government dissolved the Šavnica parliament and appointed a committee of commissioners to replace it, but the same day in the evening, the councilors of the ruling coalition at the electronic session of the local assembly voted to shorten the mandate, trying to avoid the introduction of forced administration.

Yesterday, while waiting for the Government's response to that, the decision on forced administration was suddenly withdrawn. As the source unofficially explained to "Vijesta", this was done because the decision of the Municipal Assembly (SO) of Šavnik to shorten the mandate came into force on the day it was passed, while the decision of the Government was supposed to come into force on the day it was published in the Official Gazette. Another source of "Vijesti" said, before the official announcement of the General Secretariat of the Government (GSV), that the Ministry of Public Administration (MJU) was not aware of the withdrawal of the decision which they proposed to adopt.

GSV announced that the move was made "so as not to publish two legal acts that regulate the same issue in different ways".

"Given that the Assembly of the Municipality of Šavnik voted a decision on the shortening of the mandate that comes into force on the day of its adoption, the GSV informed the MJU as the proposer of the said decision on the withdrawal from the procedure of publication in the Official Gazette of the Decision on the dissolution of the SO Šavnik", they announced.

However, it is unclear how the decision was withdrawn, given that it could only be revoked by the Government, which made it, and not by the GSV, which has no authority in this matter.

Thus, the option of introducing compulsory administration fell out of the game, and the decision of the councilors of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and Social Democrats (SD) to dissolve the parliament, which could lead to the calling of new elections, remained on the table, although it is questionable how this could be done with since the current ones are not finished.

Then the head of state, Milatović, announced that the "Decision on shortening the mandate of the councilors of the Municipality of Šavnik" does not provide a legally valid basis for calling elections.

He said that the provisions of the Law on Local Self-Government stipulate that the SO can make a decision to shorten the mandate of the parliament, "while the content of the adopted decision regulates the shortening of the mandate of councilors". He states that the regulations do not include the possibility of "shortening the mandate of councilors", but the legal institution of shortening the mandate of the SO "refers to the assembly as a collective body, and not to the councilors who make up it, through systemic legal solutions".

Decision on the shortening of the mandate of the councilors of the SO Šavnik
photo: Vijesti

"The authority of the president to call elections can be based solely on the previously adopted decision to shorten the mandate of the assembly, which was not done in this particular situation," claims Milatović.

He appealed to the competent institutions to take "all necessary measures and actions so that the election process in Šavnik, which has already started, will finally end, and this municipality will cease to be a hostage to political fights".

Damir Suljević, a member of the State Election Commission (SEC) and a program associate at the Center for Civic Education (CGO), assessed that Milatović's decision was a responsible and the only correct move.

"If by some chance he had acted differently, he would have legitimized the unfounded decisions of the Government and the Šavnik SO", he told "Vijesta".

Suljević states that the Šavnica parliament could not shorten its mandate, because, he says, that mandate has already largely expired.

"And, given that this meeting of the Municipal Council no longer exists, the Government does not have the possibility of dissolving them due to non-meeting and non-fulfilment of obligations, nor the possibility of introducing forced administration in that municipality... If such solutions existed as a possibility and that it was legal to resolve the situation in this municipality in that way, surely we would not have waited this long, and definitely we would not have apostrophized the end of the electoral process in that municipality as the only possible solution", assesses the interlocutor.

The DPS first welcomed the Government's decision, saying that it was "another victory for rights and respect for the law over violent attempts to seize power in Šavnik", and then they welcomed Milatović's move, calling on the executive power to create the conditions to end "already announced elections in Šavnik".

Therefore, the question arises whether the decision to dissolve the Šavnica parliament, which was made by their councilors, is still valid for them.

The elections in Šavnik began on October 23, 2022, when they were held in 13 other municipalities, but they have not yet ended because the members of the election committees from the opposition coalition "For the Future of Šavnik", led by the former Democratic Front, did not allow part of the newly registered voters to vote because, they claim, they were written to support DPS.

At two polling stations, in the Municipality building and in the village of Kruševica, where 541 voters have the right to vote, voting was held on nine occasions, the last time on December 18, when the elections were interrupted again, after which the Municipal Election Commission (MEC) there could not come to an agreement about repeating them. So far, dozens of people have been prosecuted before the judicial authorities for the events related to the elections in Šavnik, which included numerous incidents, including physical conflicts.

Suljević: SO cannot decide after the end of the mandate

Damir Suljević says that he thinks that the issue of dissolution of the Assembly of Šavnica is in some way similar to the one that arose after the dissolution of the Assembly of Montenegro last year, when the dilemma arose as to whether it could continue its work, and if so, to what extent.

Suljevicphoto: CGO

He reminded that the Law on Local Self-Government provides that the mandate of the municipal assembly lasts four years and that elections are held 15 days before the end of its mandate, while the Law on the Election of Councilors and Members of Parliament provides that elections for councilors are held no later than 15 days before the end of the election period ( mandate) of councilors.

At the same time, as he states, the same law stipulates that the councilor's mandate lasts for four years, while it also specifies that the mandate of former councilors and MPs ends on the day of confirmation of the new mandate.

"The latter, however, due to clumsy wording, and considering the spirit of both laws, should be interpreted exclusively in the direction of exercising material rights from that mandate, or rights from the employment relationship in the case of deputies, but not exercising the right to validly decide", he assessed. .

Suljević pointed out that the municipal assembly cannot decide after the expiration of the mandate of four years, but councilors continue to exercise their material rights until the new mandate is confirmed.

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