Maric: CEGAS has prepared a model law on local elections

“The process of decentralization and deregulation in Montenegro has been going astray for a long time, and what is of additional concern to political entities, without exception, treat this important topic only declaratively,” Maric told MINA.

Maric, Photo: Savo Prelevic

The Center for Civil Liberties will forward to the Committee for the Reform of Electoral Legislation, parliamentary clubs and the Government the initiative for the adoption of the law on local elections, which envisages the opening of electoral lists and individual candidacies, announced the executive director of that non-governmental organization Boris Maric.

He said that the model law on local elections, prepared by the CEGAS research team, is an initiative aimed at pointing out the need to open a social debate on the position and character of local governments.

“The process of decentralization and deregulation in Montenegro has been going astray for a long time, and what additionally worries political entities, without exception, treat this important topic only declaratively,” Maric told the MINA agency.

According to him, the current character of the local elections in Niksic supports the claim.

According to Marić, from the beginning to the end, they are the basis for raising tensions, forcing “state issues”, spreading xenophobia, and far from the problems of the local community, the quality of life of citizens.

“We will forward the initiative for the adoption of the law on local elections to the Committee for the Reform of Electoral Legislation, parliamentary clubs and the Government, and in the affirmation of this idea, the launch of an e-petition has been prepared,” said Marić.

As he said, the model of the law on local elections is in fact a kind of codification of the needs of the Montenegrin electoral system, which could be heard countless times in public from various sources, adapted to the local level.

“This model is also a kind of positive provocation, an induction to social dialogue, to revive the initiative to standardize local elections autonomously,” said Marić.

The model of the law, as he explained, envisages open lists, individual candidacies and the possibility of direct election of mayors in local self-governments, which would receive the status of a city.

“These are all open issues, where our idea is to finally define the real needs of local communities through a broad social dialogue,” Maric said.

Asked whether he expects the law on local elections to receive support and be adopted, he stated that it will not be easy to essentially impose that topic.

“Practically, the consensus of political entities deleted the part of the norm that indicated the possibility of passing a special law on local elections from the text of the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies,” Maric said.

According to him, parties at the central level have a natural tendency to centralize the party and even the state system.

According to Marić, a frequent argument is the size of the state of Montenegro and the lack of capacity of local communities, which is unsustainable.

He pointed out that there is no adequate control and establishment of responsibilities in the public administration system without decentralization.

“Centralization undermines democratic principles, especially with the fact that no one has ever controlled or supervised himself. It is simply unnatural. We have to start with the election process and the election system at the local level, “Maric said.

The law on local elections would provide for the opening of electoral lists and individual candidacies, and thus, as he said, at least two goals would be achieved.

“One is the education of citizens about the new way of voting, in a way, the modified electoral system. The second goal is to lay the necessary basis for decentralization in the essential sense, “said Maric.

As he said, in parallel with that process, it is necessary to introduce a political system of organizing local self-government.

“This means that the different character of functioning, organization of local government, administration would be in Niksic and Savnik, for example. “For example, Niksic could have city municipalities, and Savnik could also function with the local commission,” said Maric.

Decentralization, as he stated, would imply greater competencies of local self-governments, which means a different way of financing.

“Citizens would directly decide on their own and the interests of the local community, which is the basis without which there is no true local self-government and democracy,” Marić added.

According to him, the solutions and programs of local communities are either directly imposed from the central level, or at best severely limited by the excessive concentration of competencies at the central level.

Asked what the practice is in the region, Maric stated that there are different solutions for the organization of local self-government in the region.

“For example, Serbia and Croatia have laws on local elections, and they have a much more complex system of organizing local self-governments,” Maric added.

He emphasized that the mere existence of the Law on Local Elections does not imply well-organized and democratized local self-government and society.

“On the one hand, we should work on true decentralization and full affirmation of the participation of citizens in decision-making, and on the other hand, care must be taken to ensure that the number of local governments is optimal and functional,” Maric said.