Presidential election invalidated in Montenegro due to an insufficient participation rate

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Corinne Deloy,  

Fondation Robert Schuman,  

Helen Levy

-

22 December 2002
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Deloy Corinne

Corinne Deloy

Author of the European Elections Monitor (EEM) for the Robert Schuman Foundation and project manager at the Institute for Political Studies (Sciences Po).

Robert Schuman Fondation

Fondation Robert Schuman

Levy Helen

Helen Levy

In the Balkans elections are succeeding each other and are very similar. In the wake of Serbia, that has seen its presidential elections – 13th October and 8th December – invalidated twice due to an insufficient participation rate, Montenegro now has to face the same situation. Since the electoral law demands a participation rate of a minimum 50% of those registered, only 45.9% of Montenegrins went to vote on 22nd December to elect their president leading to the invalidation of the election.

The Social Democrat Party Candidate (DPS), Filip Vujanovic, the movement's Vice-President and right hand man to the new Prime Minister (and former President of the Republic) Milo Djukanovic did however achieve a major victory gaining 83.9% of the vote, far ahead of his ten adversaries (the candidate in second place only won 5.9% of the vote). In spite of the political problems caused by the invalidation of the vote, the opposition, who had called for the boycott of the presidential election, savoured its victory. When the official results about the participation rate had been announced the Popular Socialist Party (SNP) refused to pass any comment, contrary to the Popular Party (NS) and the Popular Serb Party (SNS) however who openly congratulated each other on the election's failure.

Political analysts have put forward several explanations to try and understand this electoral fiasco. Firstly the Montenegrin electorate appears to be tired of the political parties' incessant quarrels in the same way as they are of the repeated elections : the presidential election followed shortly after the general elections on 20th October 2002 (the previous general election took place on 22nd April 2001). In addition to this the opposition's boycott and the political withdrawal by the Liberal Alliance (LSCG) only increased the Montenegrin electorate's demobilisation. This situation leads us to question the democratisation of Montenegrin society. "Nobody has yet assimilated the concept of alternation," declared an expert from the Centre for Monitoring Elections (CEMI) in Podgorica, "the opposition parties anticipate defeat by calling for a boycott in order to try and remove any legitimacy the election might have. Hence society finds itself increasingly divided. All of those who make up the political community must really accept the rules of the game."

Another reason suggested for the abandonment of the ballot box: the scandal that erupted at the beginning of December involving the traffic in prostitutes in which many highly positioned politicians are supposed to have been involved. Following declarations made by a young Moldavian woman who managed to escape from the Mafia after having been forced to prostitute herself for three years in Montenegro, the enquiry led to the arrest of the deputy State Prosecutor Zoran Piperovic, along with several other people who were suspected of belonging to prostitution rings. This scandal certainly did not help to strengthen the Montenegrin sense of civic duty. Although the new Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic committed himself to "reveal all" in this affair, that has been named "sexgate" by the press, he recently decided not to accept into his cabinet Andrija Jovicevic, the Interior Minister in the previous government who personally ordered the arrest of the "n°2" of the Montenegrin Public Prosecutor's Department. Andrija Jovicevic is the image of the new political community in the country, that is very concerned in taking this Balkan country forwards towards being a State of law. During the previous term of office he dismissed over one thousand policemen and arrested around three hundred of them for corruption. The former Interior Minister also multiplied the number of drug seizures tenfold. The argument that erupted because of the new Prime Minister's refusal to re-appoint him poisoned the relationship between Milo Djukanovic's Democratic Party of Socialists and his partner within the ruling coalition, the Social Democrat Party (SDP). The latter threatened to impede the Montenegrin Parliament's adoption of the Charter on the Future State of Serbia and Montenegro – that will ultimately replace the present Federal Republic of Yugoslavia this month.

Finally Nebojsa Medojevic, director of the Centre for Democratic Transition an NGO in Podgorica, maintains that the creation of this new State has also contributed in distancing some pro-independence Montenegrins from the ballot box.

The day after the election observers from the Organisation for the Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) called for a change in the electoral law. "The possibility of repeating the elections infinitely encourages the boycott and entails the danger of political instability", declared Nikolai Vulchanov, leader of the observation mission of the OSCE.

For the time being a new presidential election with the same eleven candidates will take place on 9th February. If it fails again the electoral process will be revised and an amendment will be voted in so that the election results will not be subordinate to the participation rate.

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