Government defending public officials’ campaigning

Having decided not to accept the amendment to the Bill on amendments to the Anti-Corruption Agency Act submitted by the National Assembly deputies upon the CRTA’s initiative, the Government of the Republic of Serbia showed that it was not interested in substantially improving the electoral conditions.

In the reasoning of the decision, the Government defended the practice of the public officials’ campaign by practically identifying the officials with the institutions they manage, and accordingly, put a sign of equality between the public officials’ campaign and the obligation of state bodies to present the results of their work to the public.

The government has disregarded the OSCE / ODIHR conclusions given after the 2017 presidential elections, which clearly state that “the intensified activities of public officials in numerous social projects, especially in the campaign finale, in the eve of the elections, have raised the issue of their neutrality and contributed to a vague demarcation between national duties and activities within the campaign, which is contrary to OSCE commitments and the best international practice.”

The proposal for an amendment drafted by the CRTA’s legal team would not have abolished the right of state bodies to represent their work, but would have introduced a ban on persons holding the status of a public official to participate in activities promoting the work and results of public authorities during the election campaign. The proposed ban would have been limited only to certain categories of activities, namely: commencement of construction works, reconstruction or commissioning of infrastructure facilities that are partly or entirely financed from public funds. The results of the work of state bodies could have been represented by other persons employed in these bodies.

The Serbian government has also rejected the amendment concerning the introduction of a five-day deadline for the Anti-Corruption Agency to act upon citizens’ complaints related to the offenses under article 29 of the Anti-Corruption Agency Act (public officials’ campaign).

The CRTA wishes to urge all MPs to act responsibly within the public’s best interest and to vote, despite the Government’s decision, in favour of amendments that would create conditions for free and fair elections.