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Proposed amendments to the law do not solve the problem of "functionary campaign"

Transparency Serbia points out that the proposed amendments to the Law on Electronic Media and the Law on Prevention of Corruption, although useful, do not solve the problem of intensive "functionary campaign", which is much more represented in the media than presenting election participants programs and paid advertising.

According to the Government's proposal, the electronic media, in the ten days before the elections, will not be able to report on official public gatherings where infrastructure and other facilities are opened or mark the beginning of construction of such facilities, "if public officials who are candidates for President, people's deputies, deputies in the assemblies of the autonomous province and councillors in the assembly of the local self-government unit take part in those gatherings". As the TS pointed out in a commentary on the Agreement on Improving Electoral Conditions, this ban is insufficient for the following reasons: 1) The agreement and the draft law do not cover the print media; 2) the ban is valid only in the last 10 days, and not during the entire election campaign; 3) the ban is related exclusively to public gatherings where infrastructure and other facilities are opened (roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, factories, etc.), or marks the beginning of construction of such facilities, and will not apply, for example, when public officials during the campaigns visit works that have already started and not been completed, even when they visit already existing public and private facilities; 4) the ban does not apply to all public officials, but only to those who are candidates in the elections. Instead, in this way, current public officials who are "seen" for the position of future prime minister or minister, and are not candidates for deputies, will be able to promote themselves and their electoral list. We especially emphasize that this norm was not part of the draft amendments to the law that were presented for public discussion.

The provision of the Law on Prevention of Corruption, which refers to the separation of public from political function, is also changing, but to a very limited extent, and the public debate is still ongoing. Thus, this Law will undergo the fourth change in 30 months. Based on these changes, an obligation will finally be introduced for the President of the Republic to always and unequivocally present to his interlocutors and the public whether he states the position of the state body or political party he heads. However, the draft does not provide for the establishment of the same obligation for the presidents of assemblies and parliamentary working bodies, which is also necessary.

Although useful, these amendments to Article 50 of the Law on Prevention of Corruption are far from sufficient to address the problem of an intensive "functionary campaign". To solve this problem, it is necessary to establish rules on the basis of which the promotional activities of public officials in the pre-election period would be reduced to the necessary minimum, i.e., only to situations when it comes to urgent activities that only these officials can perform to meet legal obligations or maintaining international relations. This certainly does not include visits to schools, hospitals, social centres, factories, construction sites and the like. In addition, it is necessary to expand the notion of public resources whose use is prohibited for the purposes of political promotion, to include not only existing public property, but also the waiver of future public revenues and budget commitments (e.g., emergency social assistance, debt forgiveness). utilities and the like). The Coalition prEUgovor, of which Transparency Serbia is a member, pointed out the shortcomings and sent proposals for improving this norm, as a contribution to the public debate on the Draft Law on Amendments to the Law on Prevention of Corruption, which lasts until December 13, 2021.