International observers note many irregularities in Serbian election

The December 17 early elections in Serbia were dominated by the decisive involvement of the Serbian President, Aleksandar Vučić, a move which, together with the ruling party’s systemic advantages, created unjust conditions, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission said at a press conference on Monday.

The election campaign was marred by harsh rhetoric, media bias, pressure on public sector employees and misuse of public resources, said the ODIHR mission, adding that the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) maintained a notably “passive” approach to regulating media conduct during the campaign.

The mission noted that, while the elections were technically well-organized, they unfolded in the midst of a socially and politically divided landscape.

“Serbian voters have once again been called to the polls, regretfully reinforcing the ‘culture of early elections’, the unlevel playing field these create and the political instrumentalization of electoral cycles,” said Stefan Schennach, Head of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) Delegation, adding that this further undermines public trust in democratic institutions and electoral processes.

Commenting on the unjust conditions and alleged vote manipulation, the ODIHR mission representatives said those are very serious issues that the Serbian institutions need to address.

Frequent instances of group voting, some incidents of undue influence on voters, unauthorized tracking of voter turnout and photographing of ballots were also observed. “We saw serious irregularities, such as vote buying and ballot box stuffing”, said the mission.

Head of the European Parliament (EP) Delegation, Klemen Groselj, said the low level of political debate, pressure on the voters and personal discrediting of opponents are some of the worrying elements that the observers recorded. “We are concerned about the language used and the attacks against journalists and members of the civil society”, said Groselj.

Asked if the recorded violations are reason enough for the election results to be annulled, ODIHR Head of Mission, Albert Jonsson, said the observers are not in a position to comment on the effects.

“We have some recommendations which are very important and we will stay in touch with the Serbian authorities after the end of the mission”, he said.

Asked to comment on the organized transportation of voters from the Republic of Srpska (Bosnia and Herzegovina) to Belgrade, Jonsson said the mission was informed about that, although its mandate was to observe the parliamentary elections, not the Belgrade one.

“We noted in our preliminary report that voters were brought over from other countries to vote in the local elections in Belgrade, and we made a note of this”, he said.

The international election observation mission totalled 361 observers from 45 countries and consisted of 254 ODIHR-deployed experts, and long-term and short-term observers, which comprised 71 from the OSCE PA, 23 from PACE, and 13 from the EP.

(Radio Free Europe, 19.12.2023)



This post is also available in: Italiano

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