“Fundamental freedoms were respected in the 15 April Montenegro presidential election, although the governing party candidate held an institutional advantage, the international observers concluded in a preliminary statement today. Candidates campaigned freely, and the media provided the contestants with a platform to present their views, but the lack of analytical reporting and absence of the frontrunner in the televised debates reduced voters’ opportunity to make an informed choice, the statement says.

The technical aspects of the election were adequately managed, although the transparency and professionalism of the State Election Commission (SEC) remain issues of concern. Election day proceeded in an orderly manner, despite a few procedural irregularities, the observers said.

‘It is important that fundamental freedoms of assembly and speech, for example, were respected in this election, and that the candidates were able to campaign freely and to reach voters through the media,’ said Tana de Zulueta, head of the long-term election observation mission from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights. ‘At the same time, they were not able to compete on a level playing field, as the frontrunner enjoyed the advantages that the ruling party, which he leads, has consolidated over its 27 years in power.’” (Diplomatic Intelligence)