1. Following an invitation by
the President of the Parliament of Montenegro, the Bureau of the
Assembly decided, at its meeting on 25 January 2008, to set up an
ad hoc committee to observe the presidential election in Montenegro,
scheduled for 6 April 2008. At its meeting on 13 March 2008, the
Bureau appointed me as chairman of the ad hoc committee.
2. On 4 October 2004, a co-operation agreement was signed between
the Parliamentary Assembly and the European Commission for Democracy
through Law (Venice Commission). In conformity with Article 15 of
the agreement: “When the Bureau of the Assembly decides to observe
an election in a country in which electoral legislation was previously
examined by the Venice Commission, one of the rapporteurs of the
Venice Commission on this issue may be invited to join the Assembly’s
election observation mission as legal adviser”, the Bureau of the
Assembly invited an expert from the Venice Commission to join the
ad hoc committee as adviser.
Based on the proposals by the political groups in the Assembly,
the ad hoc committee was composed as follows:
- Mr David Wilshire, head of delegation
- Group of the European People’s Party (EPP/CD)
- Mr Jean-Charles Gardetto, Monaco
- Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe (ALDE)
- Mr Serhiy Holovaty, Ukraine
- European Democrat Group (EDG)
- Mr David Wilshire, United Kingdom
- Venice Commission
- Mr Owen
Masters, United Kingdom
- Mr Vladimir
Dronov, head of secretariat
- Ms Daniele Gastl, assistant
4. The ad hoc committee worked
as part of an International Election Observation Mission (IEOM)
alongside the Election Observation Mission of the Office for Democratic
Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and
Co-operation in Europe (OSCE/ODIHR). Working effectively together
5. The ad hoc committee met in Podgorica from 4 to 7 April 2008
and held, inter alia, meetings
with presidential candidates, the President of the Parliament of
Montenegro, the Montenegrin delegation to the Parliamentary Assembly
of the Council of Europe, the Head of the State Election Commission
(SEC), the Head of the Election Observation Mission of the OSCE/ODIHR
and his staff, the Head of the Election Commission (EC) office in
Montenegro, as well as representatives of civil society and the
6. On election day, the ad hoc committee was split into three
teams which observed the elections in and around Podgorica, in Tuzi,
Golobovci, Virpazar, Kotor, Vranjina, Petrovac, Vlcinj, Bar, Cetinje,
7. The ad hoc committee concluded that the presidential election
in Montenegro on 6 April 2008 was generally in line with the European
standards for free elections. The citizens of Montenegro could freely
and fairly make their choice on election day from a pluralist range
of political platforms. The press release issued after these elections
appears in the appendix).
8. The ad hoc committee wishes to thank the Special Representative
of the Secretary General and staff of the Council of Europe Office
in Podgorica for their co-operation and the support provided to
the ad hoc committee.
2 Political and legal framework, candidate
9. The 6 April 2008 election was
the first presidential election to take place since the Montenegrins
voted for independence in a referendum, on 21 April 2006. The election
was held under Montenegro’s new constitution, adopted in 2007.
10. Montenegro is a multi-ethnic state, with a population of 670
000 (according to the 2003 census), of which about 40% are Montenegrins,
30% are Serbs, 14% are Bosniaks and Muslims, 7% are Albanians, 1%
are Croats and 1% are Roma.
11. The political landscape is pluralistic. The governing coalition
is made up of the Party of Democratic Socialists (DPS), led by Milo
Djukanović and its main partner, the Social Democratic Party (SDP),
led by the Speaker of the Parliament, Ranko Krivokapić. Two minority
parties, the Croatian Civic Initiative (HGI) and the Democratic
Union of Albanians (DUA) are also represented in the government.
12. The opposition is represented by the Socialist People’s Party
(SNP), People’s Party (NS), the Movement for Change (PzP), the Serb
People’s Party (SNS), the People’s Socialist Party (NSS), the Democratic
Party of Unity (DSJ), the Serbian Radical Party (SSR), the Liberal
Party of Montenegro (LPCG), the Bosniak Party (BS), the Democratic
Alliance (DA) and the Albanian Alternative (AA).
13. The presidential election was governed by a new legal framework
amended in the wake of the June 2006 declaration of independence.
This framework includes the Law on the Election of the President
(December 2007) and the Law on Registers of Elections (2000). The
legislative framework provides for full access by local and international
observers to the entirety of the electoral process. All our interlocutors
stressed the importance of scrutiny by international observers.
14. The new Law on the Election of the President contains the
provision from the old legislation whereby, in the event of none
of the candidates obtaining 50% of the votes plus, at least, one
vote, a second round has to be organised. In such a case, the two
candidates who receive the highest number of votes will compete.
15. Presidential candidates are required to collect signatures
of supporters (1.5% of the electorate). Voters can only sign for
candidates at a municipal election commission (MEC) office in front
of at least two members of the Commission. The PzP presidential
candidate, Nebojša Medojević, appealed against this provision in
the Constitutional Court on the grounds that the procedure compromises
the concept of secrecy of the ballot. The Constitutional Court ruled,
on 28 February 2008, that the procedure is not unconstitutional.
16. Under the existing law on political party funding, €2.7 million
(0.4% of the national budget) has to be allocated for the activities
of political parties represented in the parliament. In addition,
on 6 February 2008, the parliament, in compliance with the above-mentioned
law, allocated €400 000 for the election campaign. That amount is
to be evenly distributed among those candidates who obtain at least
5% of the votes.
17. Four candidates, including the incumbent President, Filip
Vujanović, were registered. Other candidates included the SNP leader,
Srdjan Milić, the SNS leader, Andrija Mandić (running on behalf
of the Serb list comprising, in addition to the SNS, the NSS, the
DSJ and the SSR), the PzP leader, Nebojša Medojević and all four
candidates and their nominating parties signed the Code of Conduct
proposed by the Centre for Democratic Transition, on 19 March 2008,
committing themselves to a tolerant and democratic election campaign.
The campaign focused on the economy, European integration, and social
18. Montenegro has a three-tiered
election administration which comprises the State Election Commission (SEC),
21 municipal election commissions (MECs) and 1 141 polling boards
(PBs). The SEC is appointed by the national assembly (parliament)
for a period of four years and was last appointed after the new
parliament took up office in late 2006. MECs are appointed by their
municipalities for the same term. The PBs are appointed for each
election (one for each polling station).
19. All election administration bodies consisted of members reflecting
the political composition of the body that appointed it, and of
one member for each candidate. This ensured political balance and
enhanced confidence in, and transparency of, the electoral process.
20. All interlocutors met by the ad hoc committee expressed general
support for, and confidence in, the work of the SEC.
21. Montenegro has a passive voter registration system. Names
of eligible voters are added to the public voter register by municipal
administrations on the basis of information from the Ministry of
the Interior. Municipal administrations remove the names of the
deceased from the register. The SEC has no responsibility for the accuracy
of the voter register.
22. On 29 March 2008, the SEC published the final voter register
according to which the total number of registered voters in Montenegro
was 490 412.
23. Montenegro’s independence from Serbia resulted in some 25
000 Serbs residing in Montenegro without being nationals of the
country. While, under the constitution, only Montenegrin nationals
are entitled to vote, the authorities decided, with the agreement
of all political parties, not to disenfranchise any voters who had been
already eligible to vote in elections and referenda prior to this
election. The national assembly plans to address this issue before
the next election.
24. There are some 15 television
channels, 42 radio stations and 45 print media outlets in Montenegro.
Both public and four private television channels have nationwide
coverage. The other privately-owned television channels have local
25. There are several weekly and daily newspapers offering readers
a variety of views. According to our interlocutors, the media environment
in Montenegro is liberal, with little restriction on the distribution
of broadcast media licences.
26. Coverage of the presidential election by the public service
broadcaster, RTCG, is regulated by rules adopted by its council,
whose members are appointed by the parliament. However, the parliament
delayed ratification of new nominations to the Council, and the
number of its members was, for a long time, below the requirements
stipulated by law. In the absence of the quorum required, the RTCG
editorial team prepared a set of regulations based on those in force
for the last elections. On 21 March 2008, those regulations were adopted.
27. Private media are governed by their own internal regulations,
whereas state-owned or state-controlled channels are regulated by
legislation to make sure they provide equal access and coverage
to all candidates, including free airtime for campaigning.
28. The regulations adopted on 21 March included the provision
of thirty minutes of free airtime for each presidential candidate
on 25 or 26 March. They also provided for two free five-minute reports
from candidates’ rallies. The regulations further provided for a
live televised debate, however, participation in that event was
29. News programmes which were obliged to provide equal space
slightly favoured Mr Vujanović with 33.8% coverage received. This
coverage refers only to campaign events, not to coverage in his
role as the incumbent president. The figure is in comparison to
the 23.8% received by Mr Milić, 22.2% by Mr Medojević, and 20.1% to
30. All candidates bought airtime on at least some of the television
stations, as well as purchased space in newspapers for political
campaigning. Although not all candidates bought airtime on all television
stations, no requests were refused.
31. Television is the most important broadcasting medium in Montenegro,
while newspaper circulation is one of the lowest in Europe. The
public broadcasters provided a balanced coverage of the electoral
campaign and adhered to legal requirements regarding equal access
and coverage. Most private media provided a relatively balanced
coverage of the campaign, with a number of them showing a preference
for one party or another.
32. Within the legal deadline,
1 306 complaints were received by the Administrative Court, all
referring to decisions made by municipal authorities with regard
to the voter register. Some 81 out of 856 complaints regarding inclusion
to the voter register were rejected; some 60 of these were rejected
on the basis of their authors’ Serbian citizenship.
33. One of the candidates, Mr Medojević, submitted an appeal to
the Constitutional Court, challenging the process of signature collection
on the grounds that the requirement that signatures be made before
two MEC members violated the secrecy of the ballot. The Court upheld
the constitutionality of the existing provisions, on 28 February
2008, on the grounds that the secrecy of the ballot was not compromised
by the separate mechanism for signature collection regulations.
34. A complaint was also submitted to the Administrative Court,
on 1 February 2008, by an unsuccessful nominee to the RTCG Council
against the parliament for not confirming members of the council.
The court ruled against the complaint and the formation of the council
35. The OSCE/ODIHR advised us that
during the campaign period the political environment was generally peaceful;
that the tone of the campaigning was constructive with candidates
focusing on the economy, investment, social welfare and European
integration; that all candidates reached out to a wide audience (including
voters from religious and ethnic minorities); and that inflammatory
and nationalistic rhetoric was minimal.
36. All candidates campaigned throughout the country visiting
all 21 municipalities. They were able to explain their policies
freely without interference. Freedom of movement and assembly were
respected. Numerous rallies were held. All candidates made widespread
use of posters.
37. Our interlocutors confirmed this improvement in the style
and quality of political discourse compared to previous elections.
They consider it a further development of political maturity.
38. The main concern of the opposition parties was what they regarded
as an unequal campaign environment arising from a blurred distinction
between the state and the ruling parties. Other concerns included allegations
of inadequacies in campaign funding legislation, unfair coverage
in the state media.
39. There were persistent rumours of vote buying and police intimidation.
The ad hoc committee could not find any evidence to support these
40. Our interlocutors told us that
they were not expecting any election-day fraud and displayed great confidence
in the integrity of the voting and the vote counting as ensured
by political, legal and administrative safeguards and control.
41. Throughout election day, voting took place in an orderly and
generally peaceful manner. IEOM observers were present at the opening
of 59 polling stations and scored the process positively in 97%
of cases. Some 12% of polling stations observed did not open on
time and some procedural points were not always followed. This included
not drawing lots for determining responsibilities of polling board
members in 31% of cases. Unauthorised persons, generally party activists,
were observed in 14% of opening procedures observed.
42. During the course of voting, IEOM observers visited 654 polling
stations and scored the process as good or very good in 97% of cases.
There were only two cases noted of voters being denied the right
to vote for inappropriate reasons. No one was observed voting more
than once, and no incidents were noted of anyone attempting to influence
voters as to whom to vote for.
43. Procedural points were generally followed; voters were checked
for ink in more than 99% of cases, identification documents were
checked in nearly 100% of cases, and the secrecy of the vote was
ensured in more than 99% of polling stations observed.
44. There were a few problems. Ballot boxes were noted as not
being properly sealed in some 20% of polling stations visited and
unauthorised persons were observed in nearly 9%. There seemed to
be a lack of consistency in the role played by extended polling-board
45. The level of voting from home was somewhat high, at nearly
3%. It was understandably more prevalent in rural areas.
46. The IEOM observed the closing and counting in 64 polling stations.
Observers reported the count as good or very good in some 87% of
cases. There were, however, some problems. Control coupons were
not counted by the polling board before the ballot box was open
in nearly a quarter of cases and the number of unused ballots was
not counted before the ballot box was opened in 19% of polling stations
observed. Also, the number of voters who voted was not determined
by the polling board before the ballot box was opened in 13% of
cases. Approximately 10% of observers noted serious irregularities
during the counting procedures. Again, unauthorised persons were
observed in nearly 10% of polling stations visited.
47. The tabulation at MECs was observed by 13 IEOM observer teams
across all 21 municipalities. Observers assessed the overall conduct
of the tabulation as good or very good in all 21 cases. In two cases, tension
in MECs was observed and, in one case observed, there were mathematical
inconsistencies in polling boards’ records of work.
48. The ad hoc committee concluded
that the 6 April 2008 presidential election in Montenegro was another step
forward towards building a 21st century democracy and were largely
conducted in line with European standards for free elections.
49. The ad hoc committee is sure that the Parliamentary Assembly
is very willing to continue to assist democracy building in Montenegro
and would welcome the involvement of the Venice Commission in the process.
To further improve Montenegro’s processes, the ad hoc committee
therefore makes the following recommendations:
a The authority of the SEC should be expanded to enable
it to have monitoring powers over all aspects of the campaign;
b The separation between the state and political parties/candidates
still needs substantial improvement before it complies with requirements
of the Council of Europe’s Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters;
c Additional legislation is needed to cover all aspects
of campaign funding, including financial disclosure and limits on
spending and the protection of “whistleblowers”;
d The candidate nomination process should be improved. The
current requirement for signature collection should be brought in
line with Venice Commission recommendations (maximum 1% of the number
of voters). Steps should also be taken to minimise the risk of compromising
the principle of secrecy in the process of signature collection;
e The entitlement to vote in Montenegro must be settled
and the voter register revised in time for the parliamentary elections
f Laws on electoral bribery should be strengthened to make
attempted bribery and soliciting bribes criminal offences, as existing
law only criminalises the actual giving and taking of bribes;
g While the Montenegrin electorate has demonstrated that
it is well educated in electoral matters, steps could usefully be
taken to run voter awareness programmes in the future.
a There is one further recommendation
that the chairman of the ad hoc committee wishes to make:
b The Bureau is urged to convene a meeting for all members
of the Parliamentary Assembly who have led observer missions to
discuss how we might improve the working relationships with the