Announcements of the MPs of the Democratic Party of Socialists (DPS) about the amendments to the Law on Register of Electors, in order to align it with the OSCE recommendations, are a tendency to misuse and misrepresent the OSCE recommendations in order to disable the control of the electoral register.
According to the DPS and its exponents from the institutions, the right of political parties and non-governmental organizations that oversee elections should be deleted from the Law on Register of Electors – obtaining the register of electors on CD from the Ministry of Interior as well as data that would ensure that the electoral register is up-to-date. Instead, according to the DPS’s free interpretation of the OSCE recommendations, these entities would only have the right to access the electronic version of the electoral roll, created by the Ministry of Interior and which is in its possession.
To remind, the Ministry of Interior made a new register of electors in early 2015, as well as a software so as the parties and NGOs could exercise control over register. This application, however, has a large number of shortcomings, which MANS has pointed out from the very beginning. The application for examining the register of electors only contains documentation related to changes that have taken place since mid-January 2015, while the documentation of those voters who acquired the right to vote before that date does not exist and such voters are the highest in number. Also, in a large number of cases, the documentation on new voters is not adequate because the basis for gaining voting rights cannot be determined with certainty from it. For example, for a significant number of new voters, instead of a document that would provide the basis for obtaining the voting rights there are decisions on designation of polling stations, i.e. a decisions on the calling of elections. This is just a part of the example that indicates that the existing software of Ministry of Interior does not ensure an adequate control of the electoral list, unless other sources of information exist, such as registers of electors on a CD and additional supporting documentation for each voter, of which the DPS is well aware.
As a reminder, the Ministry of Interior compiled a new electoral roll and created a software in early 2015. Therefore, if the DPS proposal is adopted, it practice it would mean that anyone who wants to control the electoral roll and the work of the Ministry of Interior in this area could only control it superficially and partially, based on the application of the Ministry itself and in the manner determined by the Ministry. Further, this would mean that all who oversee the electoral roll must fully rely on the information provided by the Ministry of Interior without being able to establish their authenticity, although long-term practice has shown that the Ministry of Interior is the most responsible for illegalities in the register of electors.
In previous election cycles, MANS found a huge number of irregularities in the register of electors related to unlawful voting rights, double voting, but also to voters whose polling stations were changed to discourage them to vote. Part of the irregularities was confirmed by the Ministry of Interior in later proceedings, which was obliged to remove some illegal voters from the register of electors, still, this register abounds in numerous irregularities. However, despite the fact that voters were illegally entered in the register of electors, none of the MPs bore any consequences, despite the numerous charges filed against them by MANS. Bearing this in mind, giving the Ministry of Interior the opportunity to arbitrarily determine the degree of the control over the electoral roll by political parties and non-governmental organizations would create new possibilities for manipulation of the electoral roll, which was one of the chief causes of mistrust in the entire electoral process.
On the other hand, if the OSCE recommendations were met in the manner suggested by the DPS with its exponents, it would not be possible to compare previous registers of electors with the existing ones, i.e. determine which phantoms were included again in the registers, who acquired the voting rights illegally, who was intentionally moved to another polling station so as to prevent their voting and numerous other irregularities that are continually hindering the election process in Montenegro.
It is beyond doubt that the OSCE recommendations relating to the protection of personal data concerning the control of the electoral roll should be implemented. However, instead of the DPS’s tendentious attempts to abuse these recommendations and restrict the control of the register of electors, it is necessary to find a solution that would provide adequate protection of the personal data of Montenegrin citizens, which would not interfere with the control. Therefore, we call on the DPS to stop using the method from the Tape Recording affair, which was the evidence of their manipulation of the register of electors aimed at achieving better election results, but to focus on finding a better legal solution that will ensure better control over the register and increase the degree of citizens’ trust in the electoral process.