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news 16 Dec 15

Montenegro Deploys Software to Detect Fake Voters

The Montenegrin Government has purchased software that will supposedly purge the national voters's registry to prevent election fraud but opponents doubt it will eliminate cheating.

Dusica Tomovic
BIRN
Podgorica
Photo: Wikimedia.

On Tuesday, the Montenegrin Interior Ministry signed a 2 million euro contract for an automated fingerprint identification system called  AFIS.

The AFIS system, originally developed by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation for use in criminal cases, will compare nationally issued ID cards register based on fingerprints. AFIS will be operational within three months.

Interior Minister, Rasko Konjevic, said that the AFIS system will maintain the reliability of the Central Voters Register in Montenegro.

After installation, the new software will check all biometric documents, or the entire national ID database, and then we will know whether some persons have more than one personal ID," Konjevci told a press conference on Tuesday.

The ministry also announced that criminal charges will be filed and offenders will be deleted from the voters list in cases of fraud.

However, the Montenegrin opposition doubts that the new electronic system of identification of voters will eliminate election fraud.

The strongest opposition alliance, the Democratic front, on Tuesday accused the government of "still not dropping the idea to manipulate with voter identification" at the polling station.

"This AFIS system should eliminate all the false and duplicate voters. It's not clear whether the implemented software will be able to find voters who have different names but the same photos. The software, it does not matter what it is called, has to find all voters with incorrect registration number, with the same identification number, with the same fingerprints and identical photographs," the Front's official Milutin Djukanovic said.

The introduction of a system for electronic voter identification was a main condition of implementing new electoral legislation ahead of the 2016 general elections in Montenegro, after constant criticism of authorities in Podgorica for electoral law violations and voters' registry misuses.

New EU-backed electoral laws were adopted in late 2014 after opposition forced amendments to reduce potential electoral fraud.

The opposition demanded government and election officials explain how, in country with a population of 650,000, some 527,000 people have a right to vote, a percentage of registered voters far above other developed countries.

The November 10 EU Progress Report on Montenegro said the new electoral legislation needs to be fully implemented and added that any future elections should be held under the new laws.

The AFIS system is used to prevent voter fraud in countries such as Kenya, Sierra Leone, Nepal, Philippine and Bolivia.

Local elections in Tivat, which must be organized by the end of March 2016, will be a test for a new system.

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