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Sports clubs and schools in the election campaign

vesic plejmejkerThe visit of City Manager Goran Vesic to the Zemun Grammar School together with the President of city municipality and candidates from the list of councillors for elections to the City Parliament might be the first serious test of implementation of the Law in an actual election campaign.

Pass upon published news, the grammar school will receive the donation of EUR 5.000 for the improvement of physical education hall, procurement of sports equipments , and that announcement was given by the official of SPP and candidate for alderman from the list “Aleksandar Vucic – Because we love Belgrade” Goran Vesic (that is how he is presented in media). The donation is not given by the party, but by “our famous basketball players Milan Gurovic, Goran Grbovic and Nebojsa Ilic, who are also candidates on the list. Vesic further said “Red Star, Partizan and Serbian national team are all on our list because all of us love Belgrade”. He further announced that the “City of Belgrade, together with Serbian government and the municipality of Zemun, will do a lot this year“ to renovate the school building. The Mayor of Zemun, Dejan Matic, has also visited Zemun Grammar School and said that the municipality allocates substantial funds in order to see the renovation of the sports hall, toilets in schools...

What can be controversial about this? First of all, schools are prohibited from conuct political activity on the basis of Article 113 of the Law on Primary Education (“The institution is prohibited from parties organizations and functioning of the institutions and the use of space for that purpose”). The cited statements suggest that the famous athletes and City Manager talked about the fact that they are candidates from one party list during their visit to the school.

Furthermore, if the school itself made political promotion possible it is a violation of the Law on financing political activities, since it is forbidden to be financed by public institutions, which includes not only donations but also free services such as the assignment of a promotion (Article 12, paragraph 1).

Political entities must not be funded by associations (also Article 12, paragraph 1 of the Law on financing political activities). Sports clubs in Serbia are mostly organized just like an association, and much rarer as companies. Although Red Star and Partizan didn't actively help this party's campaign in this case, it could be said for this purpose that it was used by candidates in elections through words and visuals (club's jerseys). Despite the fact that it could be argued that this is a figure of speech, a statement by Goran Vesic can be understood literally – sports associations support one list to city elections; it would be appropriate to determine whether this is indeed the case, especially when you take into account that even Red Star or Partizan did not denied this statement.

Next point of contention is the behaviour of public officials. In this case, however, is not entirely clear whether the President of the City Municipality attended the meeting in the capacity of public or party officials, with regard to the statement that he made. When it comes to the City Manager Vesic, that dilemma can also occur, although it is likely that it is performed solely in the capacity of party officials, since it is also presented in the news.

Finally, it can be questioned whether the announced donation for the school has connection with the party, regardless of what is given by individuals, but also whether it is only a donation for the school or the political party and whether it should be reported as such. Namely, if the players had donated money independently to the school and had remained silent or had said it outside the context of an election campaign, it would have been only their donations, indisputable from the standpoint of the law. Thus, the gift to high school, which has been announced with the promotion of the city election, also represents the aid that players give to their electoral list.

Regardless of whether the news of this visit and statements were truthfully presented and whether there has been a violation of the law, this case apparently has enough elements and reasons to be investigated. The Anti-Corruption Agency is competent for this kind of issue. Pursuant to Article 32, paragraph 3 of the Law on Financing Political activities, “During the election campaign the political entity shall on request and within the deadline set by the Agency, which may not be longer than three days, submit information to the Agency that are necessary for performing work prescribed by this law”.

Investigation of these facts could also be a situation which would be capable to show whether there are conditions for the Agency to carry out impartial monitoring respect for the rules on campaign financing, forasmuch as the previous connections elect directors have had to the ruling party. The theme on the Agency's Board did not want to engage in the selection of directors, will be placed before this body in the relation to the individual action that the Agency should take in the process control.