Montenegro Set to Probe Poll Fraud Claims

The special prosecution for organized crime will probe allegations that ruling party committed electoral fraud in the run-up to the October elections – if an opposition motion secures a majority of votes.

Ballot box Wikipedia Rama 640

The prosecution has already conducted several investigation into alleged abuses of state funds. Photo: Wikipedia/Rama.

Three opposition parties which entered the Montenegrin government in May have said they will initiate changes to the criminal code as a result of which the Special Prosecutor’s Office for organized crime and corruption will probe all violations of the electoral law, electoral list fraud and allegations of “vote buying”.

The Basic Prosecution Office is currently in charge of probing such offences but the opposition doubts its capacity to conduct investigations properly. The opposition claims that 80,000 “fake” voters are on the electoral roll, accusing the state prosecutor’s office of failing to investigate this and other instances of election fraud.

One of the opposition parties which drafted the amendments, the Civic Movement URA, told BIRN on Tuesday that parliament should vote on the amendments to the criminal code during the ongoing session, which must be completed by July. The party recalled that under the agreement on free elections, signed in April by Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic’s Democratic Party of Socialists and the opposition, the Special Prosecutor’s Office will take over responsibility for handling election law violations.

A similar legal solution was agreed between the government and the opposition in Macedonia during the negotiations to end the deep political crisis in that country in 2015.

The prosecution has already conducted several investigations into alleged abuses of state funds and abuse of office in the election concerning the DPS, which Djukanovic has led since 1991. Complaints mounted following the so-called “Tape Recording Affair”, which broke in February 2013, after a local daily newspaper, Dan, published transcripts of leaked tapes of ruling party sessions.

In the leaks, party officials appeared to promise jobs and loans to supporters and election donors. Although the opposition urged the prosecution to thoroughly investigate the affair, it later ruled that no criminal actions took place. The latest EU report on Montenegro expressed regret that the judicial follow-up to the “Audio Recording  Affair” remained incomplete and hoped this and other affairs would be soon brought to court.

In another case, five people were convicted by the Podgorica basic court in May 2015 of buying ID cards on behalf of the DPS in the run-up to the May 2014 Podgorica local elections. One of the defendants was jailed for five months and the others received suspended sentences. Six people were acquitted of all charges.

The investigation failed to shed light on who ordered the buying of the ID cards, the EU report said.

Balkan Insight

15 June 2016