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Recommendations of ODIHR, election conditions and "working group of the Government"

For an ignorant reader  news from the meeting of the representatives of the Government of Serbia and Mission of OSCE it may look like Serbia continuously works on implementation of recommendations of international organizations that deal with election conditions. The truth, at least until now, is different.

Statement of the Prime-minister that came out from this meeting according to which "Government of Serbia dedicated implementation of recommendations of the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR), with which relevant institutions cooperate through three year program that started in 2017."

Establishing of working group is also announced "that will work with ODIHR in further reform of election process" and that "line of recommendations, like promotion of Unique list of Voters and work of Republic Election Commission, is already implemented through significant improvement from 2017 when the Government started its cooperation withODIHR."

Otherwise, among the problems stated by the reports of ODIHR are also following ones:
- bias media reporting
- using of public function for party promotion

  • - insufficient transparency of the campaign financing
    - non proceeding of the organs in the cases of investigating claims on irregularity during the election campaign

Government and the Assembly haven’t amended the Laws that regulate these areas after received warnings fromODIHR 2016 and 2017, as well as their own anticorruption plans from 2013. Even when the regulations were changed, like in the case of the Law on Anticorruption Agency in 2019, or the Law on Financing of Political Activities from 2014, that has not being done to resolve identified problems, instead created new ones.

Thereby provisions on "officials’ campaign", that showed as insufficient in the existing law, remained unchanged in the new one.

About insufficient care that was dedicated to the final report of OEBS/ODIHR testifies the fact that it was presented to the authorized institutions in Serbia in more than half of year after the election process, and that the news on that presentation and critical tones from the report were published only by media that are otherwise open for critical view of the government (BETA agency, Daily Paper „Danas”, TV N1, radio 021 and portal „Insajder”). 

Severity of the problem is equally illustrated with the fact that the information about the meeting of the representatives of OEBS/ODIHR-in 2017, or consideration of their report about the elections can not be found on the web-sites of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Republic Election Commission, Administrative Court, Regulatory Body for Electronic Media and Committee for Constitutional Matters and Legislation, while the web-sites of the Ministry for State Administration and Local Self-Government and Anticorruption Agency mention this meeting with the representatives of OSCE, however do not mention the report.

Therefore announcement of establishing of working group is anyhow belated. If there is a desire to improve the election conditions in the area of campaign financing and preventing abuse of public resources and functions, before the spring elections, working groups should already in their full capacity work on changes of specific regulations, and that in the process that involves not only the Government, but also all other significant political actors, state organs and experts.