The state keeps ignoring the essential election problems

The Opinion of the Serbian Government Working Group for cooperation with the OSCE and ODIHR in implementing recommendations to improve the election process was presented on March 1st at the meeting monitored by the CRTA in capacity of observer, will not contribute to solving key election problems existing in Serbia.

Having analysed the opinion, the CRTA, as an organisation dealing with the election process, concludes that, although few adequate measures have been proposed, the state yet again misses the opportunity to recognise the essential problems and work on solutions that would contribute to improving the quality of the election process.

The Opinion completely neglected the abuse of public resources and public office, problems in campaign financing, pressure on voters, as well as unequal media representation of electoral actors, which both the ODIHR and national observers identified as the most problematic and priority areas to address after the 2020 elections. Instead of re-analysing and recognising the problems when it comes to the misuse of public resources, campaign financing and pressure on voters, the Working Group only quotes the legal changes adopted in 2019 and leaves no room for further improvements. When it comes to the media, the CRTA believes that the Opinion contains measures that will not 2019 essentially solve the problem of media inequality and that may even cause additional ambiguities in the procedure and interpretation of competencies between the Regulatory Body for Electronic Media and the Supervisory Board of the Serbian Parliament. Furthermore, solutions related to the use of legal remedies represent a step backwards and might even narrow the voters’ right to file complaints. It is also bothersome that the Working Group does not recognise the need to verify the Voters’ Register, in order to determine its status.

As positive examples, the CRTA illustrates measures such as fines for electronic media that violate the regulations on reporting in the election campaign for which the REM is responsible, as well as the preparation of a new REM Rules of procedure that will apply to commercial media service providers, which was by the way valid until 2020. Constructive measures comprise also the publication of Minutes from polling stations as well as the planned legal regulation of certain issues that have so far been the subject of by-laws, such as the position of observers, which will guarantee their implementation in each subsequent election cycle.

Let us remind you, in 2020, OSCE/ODHIR officially assessed the fulfilment of their 56 recommendations, which include those repeated from previous cycles. The assessment shows that, since the parliamentary and presidential elections in 2012, none of the recommendations have been fully implemented, that only 6 recommendations have been “partially fulfilled”, and only two have been “mostly fulfilled”. The remaining 48 recommendations have the status of unfulfilled, which puts Serbia in the rank of countries in the region that have the lowest level of compliance of the quality of the election process with OSCE / ODHIR standards.

The CRTA sent to the Working Group its analysis and comments on “the Opinion on measures to be implemented in order to improve the election process.” A detailed analysis and comments can be found here.