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The campaign of state officials in local elections in four municipalities

Four municipalities where on Sunday election will be held were during 7 weeks of election campaigns within the plan of ”regular activities” of the top state officials even 20 times, which is double more than a number of regular and non-elections ministerial visits of these places during the last two and half years. In other words, the frequency of appearance of the Government members in Lucani, Doljevac, Kladovo, and Kula was about 37 times higher than that was the case in the period outside the elections. 

It is about well known ”official’s campaign” occurrence when officials abuse their function for promotional purposes by doing activities that would not be taken at all if there were no campaigns or would not be taken immediately before the elections. Transparency Serbia regularly supervises official’s campaigns since the elections in 2012.

This type of abuse is typical for all levels of power and officials from all parties in Serbia. Official’s campaigns gain momentum during the last four years, and the number of promotional activities significantly increased even in the period outside the election campaign.

Considering that the elections on December 16th will be held only in four municipalities, this time the activities of ministers were more visible and it was much easier to compare their interests for places where the elections are held comparing it to the previous period, but also with regards to the other places in Serbia during 45 days of the campaign.

Since announcing the elections, Doljevac was visited by five ministers in four separate visits. The preschool under renovation visited Minister of Education Mladen Sarcevic and Minister without portfolio responsible for demography and population policy, Slavica Djukic Dejanovic. The motive to be here also found ministries Zorana Mihajlovic, Vanja Udovicic, and Milan Krkobabic.

During the last three years, since the beginning of 2016, ministries were in Doljevac only two times-Vanja Udovicic in July that year opened the Aqua Park, and three months earlier, but during the pre-election campaign for parliamentary elections, Minister Aleksandar Vulin visited Home for elderly people.

In Kula, during the recently completed campaign ”by their own business” were the President of the Republic of Serbia, prime minister of Serbian Government and six ministers – Mladen Sarcevic, Goran Knezevic, Zorana Mihajlovic, Zlatibor Loncar, Branislav Nedimovic and Vanja Udovicic. In total, eight visits of high officials, excluding provincial prime minister. About ten days before announcing the elections in this place was also Minister for Labor Zoran Djordjevic.

Unlike Doljevac, during the previous three years, several times Kula was a destination for ministers scattered "on the field". Namely, there is a teaching center of Ministry of Interior, so the minister Nebojsa Stefanovic during 2016 and 2017 three times attended the training and exercises. Before the elections in 2016, Minister Vulin visited Center for social work also in Kula. Outside of campaign, from the beginning of 2016 up to today, just in May last year, only the Minister of Education visited the school in Sivac.

During the campaign four ministers stayed in Kladovo–Mladen Sarcevic, Slavica Djukic Dejanovic, Zorana Mihajlovic, and Zlatibor Loncar.

Previously in "regular visit" to this municipality, schools, companies and sports facilities, from 2016 came only Vanja Udovicic and not only in this town but also visited ten kilometers away youth-sports camp "Karatas". Udovicic visited camp during the campaign for presidential elections, to "see the works and announce new works” and also once more in July 2017 to visit young sportsmen.

During the previous years, two times in Kladovo was also Minister of Justice Nela Kuburovic, but not in the visit to the municipality, but on the annual counseling of judges of Magistrates Court, and once, exceptionally, also minister Vulin, when he had visited military members engaged in fire-extinguishing in the neighboring.

During the previous six weeks in Lucani were Minister of Interior Nebojsa Stefanovic and ministries Vanja Udovicic and Mladen Sarcevic, and on the last day of the campaign that place was visited by Aleksandar Vucic, but not as the President of Serbia, but as the leader of SNS. However, media reported form pre-election rallies in Kotraza, Lucani, and Guca, not only as parties’ activities but they reported quotes on Kosovo, which “ascribed” to the President of Serbia, not to the Leader of Progressives.

One of the topics in the pre-election speech of Aleksandar Vucic was the investments in the military factory ”Milan Blagojevic”, which is, with Convocation in Guca, the reason why even during non-election period Lucani relatively often are on the way of the highest state officials.

Therefore, from the beginning of 2016 up to campaign for the previous local elections, there were President (he visited construction site of embankment on the river Bjelica close to Lucani), prime minister with minister Vulin (in the factory Milan Blagojevic and on the construction site of embankment) and Ivica Dacic (on the Convocation in Guca with spokesman of the Russian Ministry).

Also, during the campaign in 2016, Lucani three times hosted ministries that right then wanted to visit works, factory or to talk with municipality representatives and with businessmen.

Although ministerial visits are presented as regular activities, so in the report on one visit of Vanja Udovicic to Kula on the website of the Ministry is stated that the visit is about "continuation of a regular program of visiting educational institutions and sports facilities and sports clubs across Serbia”, the analysis is showing that”regular program” includes mainly the places where elections are held.

Announcing the elections on October 29th, had found minister Udovicic in the visit to Krusevac, and since then he visited four municipalities – two times Kula, once Doljevac, where the elections are held and once Subotica.

Similar “regular activities" had the Minister of Health – on the day of announcing the elections he was in Kraljevo and in the meantime in Kula and Kladovo. He also visited one health institution in Belgrade.

Minister of Education also visited, outside of Belgrade, most schools in the municipalities where the elections are held – since October 29th he visited three schools in Belgrade and schools in Kladovo, Kula and Lucani. On the way back from Kladovo, he visited Veliko Gradiste.

Official's campaign is the type of abusing public resources that is the most common in Serbia during the pre-election period. In the importance of, official's campaign exceed greatly the question of financing election campaign, as it ensuring additional media promotion in the framework of an informative program that are not percept as propaganda at one part of citizens. Transparency Serbia suggested series of legal and other measures for resolving the issues of official’s campaign, based on the international standards and on experiences of other countries. Analysis and recommendations can be downloaded from the TS website.

We also gave a proposal to add the provision of the Law on Anti-Corruption Agency (and the draft of new Law on preventing corruption that should replace it). The article 29.of the Law is currently the only one that regulates the problem of using the public function in the propose of political promotion but performs it in an incomplete way.