Head of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) Election Observation Mission Douglas Wake said he sees the Serbian institutions’ openness to working on the implementation of the Mission’s recommendations regarding the April elections, but that the recommendations previously implemented were mainly of technical nature, while that there is almost no progress regarding fundamental issues.
Many of the recommendations that were implemented were of technical nature and we clearly emphasized that in the report. Unfortunately, the recommendations on the fundamental issues in Serbia, such as access to the media, equal availability of funds to all political actors in the campaign, use of public resources as well as pressure on the voters are all areas in which we saw limited or no progress, Wake told the Beta agency, adding that he hopes attention will be paid to this in future.
Wake said it was necessary for all interested parties to take part in this process so changes could be visible before the next election cycle.
It is important that such changes take place as soon as possible so that all players in the election process know the rules of the game, have a chance to familiarize themselves with them and then be able to compete on an equal basis, said Wake.
Wake was in Belgrade this week, with colleagues from ODIHR Warsaw, to present the report on Serbian April elections. They met with representatives of the ministries, the Republic Election Commission, the Anti-Corruption Agency, the parliament, the courts, but also with civil society and media representatives.
He said ODIHR remains committed to assisting the Serbian institutions when asked to do so, but added that the Serbian side’s political will was of crucial importance.
Wake noted that the process of improving the electoral process must be „comprehensive and inclusive“, and that it includes the government and parliament, but also the civil society and all other interested parties, so that the recommendations are implemented „as soon as possible“.
In its final report on the 3 April 2022 presidential and early parliamentary elections ODIHR said that diverse political options participated in the process, but that a number of shortcomings resulted in an uneven playing field favoring the incumbents.
“Recent legislative amendments adopted after extensive discussions among the ruling parties and the opposition included some welcome improvements, but key aspects of the electoral process require further reform,” said the ODIHR Observation Mission Report.
The Report includes nine priority and 17 other recommendations that Serbia is to implement so the next elections could be held in line with international standards.
Wake said elections in many countries are complicated and that Serbia is no exception.
The fact that voting at one polling station was repeated several times and at least once at several of them reflects the fact that there were certain problems and that the situation is not ideal, said Wake, adding that “unfortunately” it took a long time to release the final results of the April elections.