The forced administration cannot solve the election chaos in Šavnik

An administration that would lead Šavnik to elections that cannot be repeated is not a solution. The parties should agree whether they want the continuation of chaos or voting, says Sekulović; Everything that is happening in Šavnik long ago went beyond the scope of constitutionality and legality, but the Government took the only move it had at its disposal, says Marić

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Šavnik, Photo: Svetlana Mandić
Šavnik, Photo: Svetlana Mandić
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

If the Government's decision on the introduction of forced administration in Šavnik remains in force and if it sends its board of commissioners there, it cannot guarantee that the elections in that municipality, which have lasted for almost a year and a half, will be completed.

With these words, the interlocutors of "Vijesti" comment on the potential scope of forced administration, which, after last week's decision of the Government to dissolve the Šavnica parliament came into force on Monday, should be introduced in that municipality.

However, the question is what purpose would the arrival of the commissioner have if new elections were not called and if, as things stand now, it is likely that those that will last from October 2022 will not be completed, as the election participants say. Even if the commissioners, who will take over the responsibilities of the Municipal Assembly (SO) of Šavnik, appoint a new composition of the local election commission, which blocks the completion of the election, the relationship of party forces in it will not change, nor can the commissioners prevent the repetition of the same incidents at the polling stations. This means that the board of commissioners could stay in Savnik much longer than it normally functions in municipalities.

"Vijesti" expects answers from the executive authorities to the questions about whether, and if so - when, the trustees will be sent to Šavnik.

Lawyer and former Secretary General of the Government Boris Marić, assesses that Prime Minister Milojko Spajić's cabinet made the only move available to them with the decision to introduce forced administration in Šavnik, but that this does not guarantee them that the elections will be completed.

"Now, if the administration is introduced, many problems can arise - to obstruct the work of commissioners, to make it difficult for them to enter the premises, etc. However, the Government's decision is not unreasonable, because the local assembly has not had legitimacy for two years and some body with legitimacy is needed. According to the law, only the government can choose him", Marić told "Vijesta", adding that everything that is happening in Savnik "has long gone beyond the scope of constitutionality and legality".

According to the Law on Local Self-Government (Article 185 paragraph 3), commissioners perform the function of the municipal assembly (SO) until a new one is constituted. They have the full authority of the local parliament and decide on all issues that it decides on - everything that is urgent and in the interest of citizens, the municipality and the SO.

The government dissolved the Šavnica parliament the previous Thursday, but on the same day in the evening, the councilors of the ruling coalition of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) and the Social Democrats (SD) voted to shorten the mandate in an electronic session, in order to avoid forced administration. However, on Friday, the executive authority unexpectedly withdrew its decision "from the procedure of publication in the Official Gazette". The reason, as unofficially explained to "Vijesti" at the time, is that the decision of SO Šavnik to shorten the mandate came into force on the day it was adopted, while the Government's decision was supposed to come into force on the day it was published in the Official Gazette.

After the Government's move, the option of introducing forced administration was out of the question, and the decision of the DPS and SD councilors, which could lead to the calling of elections, remained valid. Then the President of Montenegro, Jakov Milatović, spoke up and refused to call elections, so that the Official Gazette would publish the Government's decision on forced administration on Monday evening. However, the president did not call for elections even after that. He claims that the decisions of the Šavnik Municipal Council and the Government do not provide a legally valid basis for calling elections.

Marić says that the political agreement between the key actors in Šavnik - DPS and the party of the former Democratic Front (DF) - is the only guarantee of a solution to Šavnik's election problem. He states that with that agreement they could go to the Constitutional Court, because the parties are the only ones legitimized as subjects of the electoral process. A similar idea was presented the day before yesterday by the Center for Democratic Transition (CDT).

"The parties could jointly file an objection and have it reach the Constitutional Court. That court is the only body that can annul the elections. Through that decision, he would decisively state what was violated. He could order the MUP (Ministry of Internal Affairs), SEC (State Election Commission) and other institutions to eliminate the deficiencies that have been noted. In this way, the institutions would begin to take back the initiative and capture the problem that happened in the institutional network. The Constitutional Court has a sui generis role here - it does not appear only as the Constitutional Court, it is bigger and the highest instance, that is, the authority for the implementation of elections", says Marić.

Maricphoto: Savo Prelevic

Lawyer and former Minister of the Interior, Sergej Sekulović, says that forced administration, which would lead Šavnik to the holding of elections that cannot be repeated, is not a solution. He states that he understands that the political stakes are "big even though it is a small municipality", but he notes that they should not be a demonstrative exercise that Montenegro is an immature country.

"Unless this is not our goal," he told "Vijesti".

Sekulović says that, no matter how much imagination they had, it was difficult to imagine such a legal situation in Šavnik.

Sekulovićphoto: Boris Pejović

"Elections should be repeated in the remaining two polling stations - correct, but obviously unfeasible. The entire election process should be repeated - true, probably more legitimate given the passage of time, but only the Constitutional Court can annul the elections in order to call a new one. This requires a procedure that is currently not even in sight. Will a partially or completely repeated election process solve the problem? Pumping up the voter list through 'electoral tourism' has not been resolved. Will there be obstruction of the vote again? Should half of Šavnik be deprived of their freedom? Who is to blame? Institutions or political parties or everyone? Should a state of emergency be declared in this part of Montenegro? Everyone is waiting for the IBAR (Report on the fulfillment of temporary benchmarks in the negotiations with the EU)...", he adds.

The interlocutor therefore says that the parties should agree whether they want the continuation of chaos or the facilitation of a legitimate election process.

"To begin with, those who have no points of contact with Šavnik should deregister, and the institutions should do their part of the job with checks." Physical violence must no longer be allowed to obstruct the process. And that's where the authorities have to do their part," Selulović underlines.

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 , they claim, 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, 2022, when the elections were interrupted again, after which the Municipal Election Commission (MEC) there cannot arrangements to repeat them. So far, dozens of people have been prosecuted before the judicial authorities because of the events related to the elections in Šavnik, which included numerous incidents, including physical conflicts.

Nikolić: If they withdraw the decision, we are ready to compromise with the majority

DPS yesterday threatened to withdraw from the Parliamentary Committee for Comprehensive Electoral Reform if the Government introduces forced administration in Šavnik.

The head of the caucus of that party, Andrija Nikolić, said at a press conference in the Parliament that leaving the Committee would be only the first in a series of steps to respond to "that obstruction", and that the "repertoire of actions is wide", but that he would talk about it later .

"There is no simulating democracy with the destroyers of the Constitution," he said.

Nikolić said that if the Government shows a willingness to withdraw the decision, DPS is ready to sit down with the ruling majority and "define a model of political compromise".

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