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Agreement on electoral conditions does not solve all the problems

The political agreement between the two ruling and seven opposition political parties and the President of the National Assembly envisages some measures that can increase the integrity of the election process and the equality of election participants, but many problems are not touched at all or are only seemingly solved. In addition, part of the agreement on calling early parliamentary elections and establishing a "Control Body" represents a violation of the Constitution and the law.

When it comes to financing the election campaign and preventing the misuse of public resources, these improvements are minimal - not only that the problems that are already well known to the domestic public are not solved, but there are no indications that measures will be taken to follow all Serbia's recommendations received from the ODIHR after the 2020 and 2016 parliamentary elections and the 2017 presidential elections.

It is proposed to increase the budget funds that will be divided by the participants in the elections into equal parts (30% instead of 20% of the total amount). There are no additional rules for classifying campaign costs between multiple elections, which will be held at the same time. It is planned to introduce the obligation to submit preliminary reports on campaign expenses, five days before the elections. This measure will increase transparency only if the parties publish the agreed obligations, and not only what has already been paid by then, because in practice about 90% of the costs are paid after that date.

A useful novelty is the publication of price lists of media for advertising in the campaign, but the rules should be specified when it comes to discounts, deferred payment and payment of advertisements through marketing agencies. The new rules banning media coverage of certain activities of public officials (ceremonial opening of infrastructure facilities) are completely inadequate - instead of banning the media, the promotional activities of public officials in the campaign should be limited, such restrictions should apply to other officials, not only those are on the electoral list and should certainly be valid throughout the campaign, not just ten days before the election.

From the point of view of the rule of law, the main problem is that the inter-party agreement envisages obligations for state bodies - among other things, for the Government and the President of the Republic (determining that the President will dissolve the National Assembly and call elections within a certain deadline). Such an agreement violates a constitutional provision, according to which "political parties may not directly exercise power or subordinate it to themselves." Similarly, there is no legal basis for the inter-party agreement to provide for the establishment of a "Control Body", which should have powers in relation to state bodies and holders of public authority.

The entire comment was published on the Transparency Serbia website (in Serbian only).