Further reform of electoral legislation is needed to ensure equal political representation of minority peoples

Further reform of electoral legislation is needed to ensure equal political representation of minority peoples

Podgorica, PR press service – Information literacy reduces overall ethnic distancing in municipalities, while mechanisms for protection against discrimination against minority peoples and other minority national communities should be used to a greater extent, all while legal solutions need to change to ensure that all minority peoples are equal – it was announced at the conference of the Center for Democracy and Human Rights (CEDEM).

Today, this organization organized an online conference on the position of minority peoples and other minority national communities in Montenegro entitled “Equality as a Reality”, which presented the key findings of the analysis “Effect of Municipalities as Specific Environments on Ethnic Distancing”. A complete report of the conducted research is available here.

The Chief Methodologist at CEDEM, prof. Dr. Miloš Bešić, reminded that this organization has been conducting research on ethnic distance since 2007, and that this is the first time they have dealt with the problems of ethnic relations and ethnic distancing, from the angle of an influence, i.e. the effect of the municipality as a specific environment in terms of its cultural, social, ethnic and even political characteristics.

He said that in the analysis “Effect of Municipalities as Specific Environments on Ethnic Distancing” they investigated whether and to what extent municipalities, as a specific environments, contribute to and influence ethnic distancing and if so, which distinctive characteristics of municipalities increase or decrease the degree of distancing.

“If we start from Montenegrins, the percentage of distancing towards Montenegrins based on the place where people live is 21.1%. That percentage for the distance towards Serbs is even higher, 24.6%. According to Bosniaks, the effect of the municipality is 8.5%, towards the Muslims 14.1%, Albanians 16.3%, Croats 18.8%, and Roma 10.1%. The total distance, when we measure the parameter of total distancing, is 14% of the total distance due to the effect of the municipality as a specific environment,” said Bešić.

He further stated that the ethnic distance towards Montenegrins in the municipalities is most pronounced in Plav, and that the distance towards Serbs in that municipality is similar.

“When it comes to the distance towards Bosniaks, it is almost non-existent in Rožaje, while it is very high in Šavnik and Andrijevica. When it comes to distance towards Muslims, the pattern is very similar to that for Bosniaks, except in the case of Kotor where we had a low level of distancing towards Bosniaks and a high level of distancing towards Muslims. When it comes to distance towards Albanians, in Ulcinj and Rožaje we record the lowest values ​​of distance,” said Bešić.

He explained that, when it comes to the total distance, the municipalities that are characterized by the highest degree of ethnic distancing are Plav, Šavnik, Andrijevica, Berane and Cetinje, while it is the least pronounced in Ulcinj and Kotor.

Bešić pointed out that they analyzed the effect of municipal characteristics on the overall ethnic distancing expressed by individuals.

“We conclude that there are two key characteristics at the municipal level that affect the ethnic distancing of individuals. More precisely, we determined that the higher the level of unemployment, the higher the level of ethnic distancing will be, and the higher the number of computer literate people in municipalities, the lower the level of ethnic distancing gets,” Bešić said.

He pointed out that the key conclusion of the research is that strengthening the economy and increasing the level of cultural capital, which is reflected in the development and strengthening of information literacy, has a positive effect on reducing ethnic distancing in Montenegro.

“The general recommendation is, consistently, that we should work on strengthening the economic status of municipalities, as well as strengthening information literacy in municipalities, because in that way we can expect a reduction in the degree of ethnic distancing,” Bešić said.

CEDEM Director, Milena Bešić, said that the issue of normative regulation and practical realization of the rights of minority peoples and other minority communities is one of the key criteria for assessing the degree of democratization of society, but as well a condition for the country’s integration into European and Euro-Atlantic structures.

“Full integration of all ethnic and national communities can be achieved only through respect and recognition of their collective identities, by banning assimilation and all forms of discrimination against minority and national communities,” Bešić pointed out.

Bešić reminded that CEDEM regularly conducts research which tries to point out the shifts, but also persistent shortcomings in the political, legal and social field, which directly concern the protection and promotion of the rights of minority peoples and minority national communities in Montenegro.

Nikoleta Đukanović, Professor of Humanities at the University of Donja Gorica, said at the First Panel “Political Participation and Representation of Minority Peoples and Other Minority National Communities in Montenegro” that the percentage of minority political lists in Montenegro today is 6.17%.

“After the parliamentary elections in 2016, the percentage of minority lists was 4.94%, and after the parliamentary elections in 2012, 7.40%. Today’s results are better than the previous convocation, but not the convocation of the parliament that was characteristic for the period 2012-2016. “, pointed out Đukanović.

She warned that, when it comes to the Law on the Election of Councilors and Deputies, the legal solutions are imprecise and incomplete, and that they leave room for abuse.

“It is necessary to create adequate mechanisms for representing minorities, not just parties. In Montenegro, these things seem quite the same and get mixed up, while the priority is given to parties and not to minority communities, which is completely natural since they participate in the creation of election legislation, “said Đukanović.

The Representative of the Civil Movement UPRE, Elvis Beriša, assessed that the Roma should have a political representative in the parliament, who, as he stated, would primarily deal with the position of Roma and Egyptians and in the most direct way seek to resolve certain issues that have plagued this community for years.

“Political entities in Montenegro, in the last few years, have not been open to the possibility of including representatives of the RE community on their electoral lists, as the last elections have shown. In the parliamentary elections, all electoral lists did not have any representatives of the RE community, while in the local elections, two electoral lists had representatives of this population, in 56th and 62nd place,” said Beriša.

He believes that the RE community is generally not taken seriously and that its demands are not included in the agenda as a priority, saying that the problems of the RE community cannot be solved without the participation of this community “in the home where decisions are made regarding the fate of the Roma people.”

The President of the Croatian Citizens’ Initiative, Adrijan Vuksanović, said that the political field in Montenegro was incomplete because, as he said, there were no representatives of Croats or Roma people there.

“For a national community to survive, it must have its own political identity. It must not be apolitical,” Vuksanović said.

He said that there are no Croats in the Parliament of Montenegro, stating that they would not be in the Government of Montenegro any time soon, “and that an important voice that will be able to articulate all their needs won’t be heard.”

“What I would like to change in the reform of the election legislation is the manner and procedure of registration of new Croatian parties. This lower threshold of the Croatian national electorate is satisfactory. The law should specify that those who want to found a Croat party, Bosniak, or Albanian, must confirm that they belong to the identity of the people in whose founding the party they want to participate,” Vuksanović pointed out.

Introducing the second panel, Marko Pejović, CEDEM Program Manager, said that “having in mind the ideology and actions of the new political constituents of government, the institutions and bearers of change face many challenges to show the will and the responsibility in future democratic development to reduce discrimination and strengthen the social cohesion, and thus the overall democratic progress in the light of Montenegro’s EU accession process, by way of which it will enable full equality of members of minorities and other national communities in all areas in accordance with Montenegrin legislation.”

The Representative of Montenegro before the European Court of Human Rights, Valentina Pavličić, said at the II panel “Mechanisms for Protection Against Discrimination of Minority Peoples and Other Minority National Communities: Results and New Solutions” that the standard of a state, as well as the freedom of said state, is assessed based on the determined violations of rights on the basis of discrimination, and that mechanisms for protection against discrimination must be used to a greater extent.

“It is very important that the state authorities, at the moment when a citizen complains that they have been denied a certain right or given a smaller amount of said right, provide a quality explanation when it comes to citizens’ complaints so that it would not be reviewed by the European Court of Human Rights,” said Pavličić.

She pointed out that the Constitutional Court must take into account that it is the court of last instance before the citizens address the European Court of Human Rights, and that as such it must correct certain violations.

“Other peoples freedom is an important measure of the extent to which freedom prevails in a country, and that is the standard of the European Court,” Pavličić said.

She also emphasized that the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights are binding and as such must be clearly accepted by the state authorities in order to prevent an increase in the number of petitions before the European Court of Human Rights in relation to Montenegro.

“When it comes to prevention, it is very important that we learn from the experiences of other countries, so that the same mistakes and injuries that those countries made do not happen to us. The European path of our country, as well as other countries, largely depends on that,” Pavličić said.

The President of the Basic Court in Podgorica, Željka Jovović, said that Montenegrin legislation was harmonized with all relevant conventions and recommendations, and that Montenegro had a good legislative framework for the protection of members of minority peoples.

“We have a small number of cases based on discrimination before our courts, but I have to distance myself because we draw that information from a system that is almost two decades old and does not provide statistics that are the most reliable,” Jovović said.

Jovović announced that the new judicial information system will improve the record of cases, and that she will then have a clearer picture of the real number of complaints and all the important characteristics of cases.

She said that the institute of free legal aid should be used by members of the Roma and Egyptian populations, and that in that way they will better protect their rights.

The online conference was held within the project “Strengthening the System for a Society of Equal Rights” which the Center for Democracy and Human Rights – CEDEM is implementing with the support of the Ministry of Human and Minority Rights.

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