What does ODIHR’s report on December elections contain?

The Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Report on the Serbian elections in December 2023 says that necessary legislative amendments should be initiated well in advance of the next elections through an inclusive consultative process built upon a broad political consensus.

It also states that observers noted frequent overcrowding and procedural inconsistencies on election day, underscoring the need for adequate training. Further, some instances of serious irregularities, including vote-buying and ballot box stuffing were observed. It adds that measures for ensuring vote secrecy were insufficient, at odds with previous ODIHR recommendations.

Observers also noted numerous instances of group voting, some cases of undue influence and unauthorized tracking of voters, as well as ballot photographing.

“Vote count at polling stations and results tabulation at LECs were generally efficient, yet procedural safeguards were inconsistently implemented,” said ODIHR in its Report.

Contributing to transparency, preliminary voting results by polling stations were promptly published online, in line with a prior ODIHR recommendation.

The report says that, after the election day, the opposition alleged widespread irregularities, including pressure on voters, vote buying, as well as organized busing of voters, and launched daily demonstrations in Belgrade.

“The protests were generally peaceful but violent incidents occurred on 24 December, which led to the arrests of several protestors. The LECs received some 360 and the REC 36 complaints regarding the voting procedures and polling station results, mainly requesting the annulment of voting in polling stations; most of these complaints were rejected. Due to procedural irregularities, the voting was repeated at 43 polling stations on 30 December and 2 January 2024. The final electoral results were announced on 12 January, and the parliament was constituted on 6 February. The voter turnout was 58.69 per cent,” said ODIHR.

The report further states that the overall subdued election campaign, dominated by the incumbent president, was characterized by hardened polarization, aggressive rhetoric, personal discreditation, verbal abuse and inflammatory language.

“Freedoms of expression and assembly were generally respected in the campaign, and the elections offered voters a choice between genuine political alternatives.

Yet, instances of pressure on public sector employees, misuse of public resources, and voter inducement schemes raised concerns about voters’ ability to make a choice free from undue pressure.

These practices, in addition to some challenges in accessing public venues for the opposition, tilted the playing field, and blurred the line between state and the party, at odds with international standards and paragraph 5.4 of the 1990 OSCE Copenhagen Document”, the report states.

“All monitored national channels covered campaign activities in line with the law, but positive coverage of the President and ruling parties dominated the programmes of most broadcasters further tilted the level playing field. The Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media (REM) maintained a notably passive approach to regulating media conduct during the campaign,” the report concludes.

(Danas, 27.02.2024)


This post is also available in: Italiano

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