PRELIMINARY STATEMENT ON ELECTION DAY CONDUCT
CRTA Election Observation Mission assesses that drastic abuses of voters’ rights, laws and institutions escalated on Election Day. We bring attention to serious concerns regarding the quality of Parliamentary elections, and their further departure from standards for free and fair elections. Considering the scope and diversity of electoral abuses in Belgrade we conclude that the results of the Belgrade elections do not reflect the freely expressed will of voters living in Belgrade.
Irregularities that directly compromised election results were recorded at five percent of polling stations in Parliamentary elections and at nine percent of polling stations in the Belgrade elections. In the afternoon and evening hours the trend of significant increase in the number of cases of pre-filled ballots and unauthorized presence of third persons at polling stations became more observable, especially in Belgrade. In addition, the number of cases where someone signed the Voters’ List on behalf of another voter tripled in Belgrade, in comparison to the first half of the day. Polling stations were closed in an atmosphere of a worrying increase in the number of cases in which voters were registered in parallel voters’ lists, both inside and outside of polling stations, organized migrations of voters, suspicious circling of vehicles around polling stations… Election Day was also characterized by breaches of the secrecy of voting and cases of non-verification of the voter’s identity.
Under these circumstances, the legitimacy of every local election in the future will remain disputable if institutions do not engage in uncovering the truth and seeking accountability in cases of breaches of the law and collapse of electoral integrity.
The election campaign preceding the elections was conducted in an atmosphere of distinct irregularities in favor of the ruling coalition and continuous abuses of Serbian state institutions. This was used as a channel to acquire unfair advantages and run a negative campaign against political opponents, erasing the line between the state and the political party.
Almost half of the announced electoral lists in Belgrade elections were proclaimed under the suspicion of their unlawful placement on the ballot, which potentially represents the most extensive case of falsification of candidacy signatures in Serbian electoral history. Many indicators recorded in the campaign, and then on the Election Day, point to electoral engineering in the Belgrade elections, referring to the manipulation of voters’ rights and organized migrations of voters with the intent to manipulate election results in Belgrade.
Cases of pressure on voters spread and furthered through additional mechanisms, becoming more ruthless in character, while many cases showing mass abuses of citizens’ personal data for the purpose of political marketing, as well as pressuring and bribing voters, were identified. Pronounced dehumanization rhetoric characterized the campaign, and was used both by the most influential media and the highest state representatives, while many cases of violence towards electoral contestants and citizens were recorded as well.
We witnessed a continued promotion of impunity for various violations of the law and the violations of the principles for democratic elections due to the lack of reaction from Serbian state institutions.
Results of the Belgrade elections will remain disputable in the continued absence of a decisive reaction from the institutions, aiming to identify individuals and mechanisms indicative of corruptive practices and manipulations of citizens’ electoral will. While institutions are accountable for the protection of the law and the integrity of elections, the engagement of the Prosecution is necessary to determine the truth about law breaches in the context of the Belgrade elections. Even in cases of compliance with electoral laws, we have firm indications referring to breaches of regulations prescribed in the Law on Residency and Permanent Residency.
Taking all these considerations into account, the CRTA Election Observation Mission demands that Serbian state institutions take urgent action:
- The Prosecution to objectively look into allegations of criminal acts in the elections and election campaign, including criminal acts related to abuse of official functions and negligent conduct, inaccurate preparation of Voters’ List, falsification of voter support signatures, as well as to investigate recorded cases of pressures on voters and suspicions regarding the misuse of citizens’ personal data and inform the public on the result of the proceedings;
- To amend the Law on Local Elections to ensure that the right to vote in local election can be realized only after citizens have resided at the address for 6 months;
- To ensure greater transparency of the Voters’ List in order to not compromise the personal data of voters, such as the number of voters per household;
- Ministry of State Administration and Local Self-Government to proceed with an independent revision of the Voters’ List in accordance with recommendations of the ODIHR Mission and international standards;
- To ensure that the offices of public notaries are entrusted with the exclusive authority to verify signatures of voter support in the candidacy process.