ODIHR report on Serbia: Dominance of ruling party and fragmented opposition

NEWS 18.05.202415:08 1 komentar
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The OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) election observation mission has assessed that the upcoming local elections in Serbia on June 2 will occur within a context of continued dominance by the ruling party and president, fragmentation of the opposition, deep-rooted polarization, and frequent early elections.

The initial ODIHR report, covering the period from April 30 to May 14, highlights that some opposition parties are boycotting the elections, while others have decided to participate, often setting preconditions for their involvement.

A parliamentary working group has been formed to implement ODIHR’s recommendations, but as of May 14, no applicable changes for these elections had been adopted beyond amendments to the Law on the Unified Voters’ Register.

Concerns were raised about the accuracy of the voter registry, with some alleging past abuses. The ODIHR noted that amendments were made to address alleged organized voter migrations for the December elections.

Regarding signature collection, some interlocutors expressed worries about the potential use of forged signatures verified by municipal authorities and the difficulties some opposition lists face in accessing verification services.

The report also comments on the election campaign, noting that national issues and the state’s efforts to manage geopolitical dynamics dominate the political discourse, though infrastructure topics are also present.

Traditional campaign activities are limited, with participants and political actors, including those boycotting the elections, being active on social media.

Long-standing concerns persist about potential vote-buying and pressures on public sector employees.

The ODIHR noted that campaign finance oversight is conducted by the Anti-Corruption Agency, which has deployed 44 observers. However, some interlocutors expressed distrust in the Agency due to its lack of a proactive approach to investigating alleged violations.

In the media sector, despite numerous outlets, the environment is marked by financial insecurity and political polarization. Challenges include intimidation of journalists, political and economic influence on media, media ownership concentration, and inconsistent law enforcement.

The report mentions 95 complaints filed during the election cycle, mostly alleging that President Aleksandar Vucic’s appearances as a leader on the SNS list contradict his constitutional role. All complaints were dismissed as they were outside the jurisdiction of local election commissions.

ODIHR also noted that despite an increase in the number of women in the Serbian Parliament (from 87 to 95 out of 250), women remain underrepresented in decision-making positions, with only 10 female ministers out of 31 in the new government.

The ODIHR mission for Serbia’s local elections was established on April 30, led by Ambassador Lamberto Zanier. It consists of 11 core team members in Belgrade and 18 long-term observers deployed to eight locations across Serbia on May 8. Mission members come from 20 OSCE member states, and ODIHR has requested 160 short-term observers for election day on June 2.

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