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The Government missed the opportunity to significantly improve laws that change before elections

Transparency Serbia reckons that the Government missed the opportunity to significantly improve the laws that are being changed before the announced April elections, even though the line ministries received numerous concrete proposals within the public debate. As a result, running a "functionary campaign" will not be prevented once again, the costs of the election campaign will not be legally limited, the public will be deprived during the campaign of most information on funding sources and expenditures. The opportunity to adequately regulate the protection of whistleblowers in connection with the election process was also missed.

At the session on January 17, 2022, the Government adopted and sent to the Assembly a number of draft laws that are changing before the presidential, parliamentary and Belgrade elections, which is largely a consequence of the agreement from the inter-party dialogues. In addition to the three laws directly related to the election process, it is proposed to pass a new Law on Financing Political Activities and a minimal amendment to the Law on Prevention of Corruption. The line ministries organized a public debate on the amendments to the Law, which was reduced to collecting written proposals. Although some of these proposals were adopted, no reasons were given for rejecting most of the proposals.

As for the "functionary campaign", the Government opted for minimal intervention in Article 50 of the Law on Prevention of Corruption. After adopting these changes, the President of Serbia will finally have an obligation to emphasize, like other public officials, whether he acts as the party leader or the state leader. Transparency Serbia proposed significantly broader amendments to this Article, which would distinctly ban public officials' organization and participation in promotional activities during the election campaign.

The "new" Law on Financing Political Activities proposal introduces many changes related to ODIHR recommendations (e.g. reduction of allowable contributions, introduction of preliminary reports on campaign financing). However, despite an earlier ODIHR recommendation and a practice in most European countries, no limit on total election campaign spending has been introduced. We remind you that Transparency Serbia within the public debate proposed to introduce a spending limit of 300 million dinars for parliamentary and 200 million dinars for presidential elections, which is in line with the solutions that exist in the laws of comparable EU member states (Hungary, Bulgaria, Croatia, Czech Republic, Slovakia). The bill envisages a significant increase in the share of budget grants that participants in parliamentary elections will divide into equal parts (35% instead of 20% of total benefits). However, contrary to the inter-party dialogues' agreements, it is proposed to reduce the amount divided equally for the presidential elections (35% instead of 50%). Although it is proposed to introduce the obligation of election participants to submit preliminary reports on election campaign expenses (as of 15 days before the election), this will not ensure transparency of information, as less than 10% of expenses is actually paid by then.

Regarding the Law on the Election of Deputies and other election laws, the TS's proposals to regulate the whistle-blowing procedure regarding irregularities in the election procedure, the Supervisory Board powers and status were not accepted. Neither was the proposal to reduce election costs.