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Proposals for the implementation of ODIHR recommendations and improvement of election conditions

Transparency Serbia has used the opportunity to present to representatives of parliamentary parties and the Working Group of the Government of Serbia for Cooperation with ODIHR a number of specific proposals and priorities for improving election conditions, especially regarding the financing of the election campaign and preventing the misuse of public resources.

At the meeting convened by the Speaker of the National Assembly, representatives of Transparency pointed out that this is unfortunately the first time that the implementation of ODIHR recommendations have been discussed in the Assembly after the elections, although the TS has been sending initiatives to the Parliamentary Committees on Justice and Finance for years to organize a public hearing on this topic.

When it comes to considering ODIHR recommendations, TS raised a flag that the Government Working Group dealt only with recommendations prepared after the December 2023 elections, ignoring the fact that there are several dozen unfulfilled recommendations that Serbia received after the elections in 2022, 2020, 2017 and even in previous years.[1]. Among these recommendations, some are of great importance, such as setting limits on campaign costs per participant (TS proposal is to set the limit to 300 million dinars, in the case of national elections).

Regarding the materials submitted with the invitation to the meeting (draft versions of amendments to five laws, regarding seven recommendations), TS pointed out that it remains unclear what criteria were used to decide to restrict legal interventions just to these recommendations.

Thus, the working version of the Law on Prevention of Corruption contains a proposal to amend only one article, which concerns publishing of decisions of the Agency for Prevention of Corruption. TS offered a solution to a far more important problem, which is a priority and according to ODIHR assessment – a clear separation of the exercise of public office and pre-election party activities. According to the proposed amendment submitted by TS, promotional activities of public officials during the campaign would be limited only to what constitutes the fulfillment of legal obligations, which only they can fulfill. This would exclude promotions in the form of visits to construction sites, schools, health centers, sports clubs, municipal administrations, as well as speeches by politicians at various opening ceremonies ahead of the elections[2].  

In the field of campaign financing, in addition to the aforementioned expenditure limit, TS submitted specific proposals for ensuring equal conditions for the use of public spaces, introducing the obligation to report advertising costs paid by party officials, and not their parties (especially on Facebook), as well as to increase the publicity of revenues and expenditures of the campaign while it lasts. We also submitted a proposal in which the concept of criminal and misdemeanor punishment for violation of this Law was elaborated, as well as for specifying the Agency's duties in the control procedure.[3]

In the submitted materials, the TS pointed to a number of other issues, including the previously submitted initiative sent to the Ministry of interior for the publication of data on the displacement of residence, in order to determine the extent to which citizens, previously registered in the municipality where there were no local elections in December, were registered to vote in those cities and municipalities where they were held at the time.