The Council of Europe (CoE) warned on Monday that the election campaign in Serbia is highly polarized with attacks on the opposition and journalists. Pročitaj više
A press release said that CoE Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) “pre-election observers, ending a two-day visit to Serbia, has noted a highly polarised campaign ahead of next month’s early parliamentary elections, marked by an unprecedented level of negative campaigning and fearmongering, attacks against the opposition and journalists and serious issues related to the media”.
The observers welcomed the efficient preparation of the elections and the high level of trust in the electoral administration. The four-member delegation urged the authorities to “take measures to alleviate an unlevel playing field and protect the integrity of the electoral process”. The delegation was in Belgrade on November 23-24 to assess preparations for the December 17 elections, meeting with election officials, party representatives, journalists and civil society groups, as well as the ODIHR mission and diplomats.
“The delegation was particularly concerned to hear about the direct and indirect influence exerted by the ruling party on mainstream national and local media, significant inequalities in the access of political entities to the media space, self-censorship and disinformation. The delegation was also alarmed to hear of inflammatory rhetoric, including by high-level officials, and hate speech, as well as the negative tone and pressure being used against opposition members, journalists and civil society activists. The delegation urges all contestants and officials to refrain from such divisive and defamatory rhetoric and recalls that voters require pluralistic, fact-based information if they are to make an enlightened choice,” the press release said.
“The delegation was informed of serious concerns and allegations related to “phantom voters”, falsified signatures supporting candidates, the possible migration of voters to take part in consecutive local elections, abuse of administrative resources, pressure on public company employees and civil servants, timely handling of electoral complaints by courts, and the limited space made available for opposition contestants to campaign at local level. The dominant presence of the President of the Republic in the media, campaign and electoral lists at all levels was also mentioned as an issue of concern,” it added.
A 21-member PACE delegation, accompanied by legal experts from the Venice Commission, will travel to Serbia to observe the vote on 17 December 2023 in the framework of the International Election Observation Mission.