ODIHR concerned over the regularity of the June 2nd local elections

Local elections held on June 2nd in 90 cities and municipalities in Serbia were well-administered, offering voters a wide range of political alternatives, but concerns about widespread pressure on public sector employees, misuse of public resources and media bias in favour of the ruling coalition negatively impacted the process, head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission, Lamberto Zannier, noted.

Presenting the ODIHR observation mission’s preliminary conclusions on Serbia’s Sunday local elections, Zannier told a media conference that “election day proceeded smoothly overall but was negatively affected by issues related to the secrecy of the vote, numerous procedural problems, claims of pressure and vote buying, and isolated instances of violence.”

“ODIHR EOM observers assessed voting negatively in 7 per cent of polling stations observed, attributed to frequent breaches of the secrecy of the vote, including due to the layout of the polling stations. ODIHR EOM observers also noted several instances of serious irregularities, including cases of vote buying and pressure on voters, as well as procedural shortcomings, including group voting and proxy voting,” said Zannier.

He said that fundamental freedoms of expression and assembly were respected and that voters were offered a wide range of voting options representing a broad spectrum of political opinions, but that dominance of the ruling party and fragmentation of the opposition “reduced the competitiveness of elections.”

“The use of diverse names and numbers for opposition lists, and several lists with similar-sounding names, allegedly registered intentionally to confuse voters, affected voters’ ability to make a fully informed choice,” added Zannier.

He also said that the diverse media landscape in Serbia is “highly polarized” and that it provided “selective coverage, prioritizing the national agenda over local issues, limiting the amount of essential information on local elections available to voters.”

“Public service media primarily focused on the president, government, and ruling parties, granting access to the opposition in the last ten days before the elections. National private broadcasters largely favoured public officials and ruling parties, marginalizing and often negatively framing the opposition,” he said.

Zannier noted that the electoral legal framework provides an adequate basis for the conduct of democratic elections, but that further reforms are needed to address outstanding ODIHR recommendations.

He added that many ODIHR EOM interlocutors expressed a general lack of confidence in the accuracy of the Unified Voter Register (UVR), citing allegations of deceased voters still recorded in the UVR and of voter migration during past elections.

“Despite measures introduced to address concerns over alleged organized voter migration in previous elections, many stakeholders considered these insufficient and expressed a general lack of confidence in the accuracy of the voter register,” he said.

(N1, 03.05.2024)

https://n1info.rs/vesti/zanijer-na-birackom-mestu-u-beogradu-detaljan-izvestaj-odihr-o-izborima-u-ponedeljak/

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