In cooperation with the Centre for Contemporary Politics, Friedrich Ebert Stiftung (FES) has compiled a report in which the two organizations claim that the 2020 election in Serbia was the most controversial election in the country since the democratic changes 20 years ago, and added the European Parliament (EP) mediation was unsuccessful, European Western Balkans (EWB) reported.
The report recommended the European Union-mediated dialogue to continue but with all relevant players and to address fundamental issues important for holding fair and free elections, with strict monitoring of implementation.
EWB cited Serbian Election 2020: Erosion of Trust in the Democratic Process report which says that numerous irregularities, which greatly influenced the election outcome, were documented on the election day and during the electoral campaign, which unofficially continued during the state of emergency introduced due to COVID-19 pandemic.
“Almost all the mentioned deficiencies were not the result of technical errors or imperfections of the electoral process, but rather an evident result of the lack of political will to hold free and fair elections”, the report goes on to say.
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It was especially indicative that the 2020 elections had a record number of irregularities and controversies despite the fact that their winner was almost certain, and that they had been preceded by a months-long EP-mediated dialogue during which the government committed itself to improve electoral conditions.
Regarding the problems of the election campaign and the election day, the document cited the findings of the Center for Research, Transparency and Accountability (CRTA), the Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID), Transparency Serbia, BIRODI and other organizations which all registered severe imbalance in media presentation of election participants, pressure on voters, blurring of the lines between state and party activities and misuse of public resources.
Some of the issues were discussed in the EP mediated talks between the government and the opposition at the end of 2019 following which a set of measures was adopted, and the government agreed to fulfil them.
“All or almost all recommendations were formally implemented. However, the evaluation showed that they either did not cover all the areas, such as pressure on voters and cases of state officials’ campaigning, or they did not produce the expected outcome. Critics have repeatedly pointed out that the recommendations were limited to amendments to relevant legal acts and the adoption of a recommendation but not directed to the actual implementation of established rules”, the report said.
The report also said that “instead of improving electoral conditions, hasty changes to the electoral system which violated the principles of the Venice Commission were made, as well as very intensive in-office campaigning, and most probably a manipulation of official statistics on the COVID-19 pandemic for political gains.”
“In the end, we have also seen elections with a record number of irregularities, as well as electoral results which by themselves raise questions about the democratic nature of Serbia’s political system”, the report concluded.
This post is also available in: Italiano