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Serbia: statement of the PACE pre-electoral mission

Strasbourg, 19.04.2012 – A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) visited Belgrade to assess the preparation of the elections and the election campaign on the eve of the parliamentary and early presidential elections of 6 May 2012.

The pre-electoral delegation welcomed the smooth preparation of the elections, which will mark an important moment for the country, as it will elect at the same time its representatives at presidential, parliamentary, provincial and local level. It noted with satisfaction that all the political stakeholders expressed confidence in the electoral process and the pre-election campaign, which, for most of the political parties, focuses mainly on economic issues and European integration.

The pre-electoral mission expects that minorities will be adequately represented in the parliament; particular attention will therefore be paid to the conduct of elections in Sandzak, Voivodina and southern Serbia. It also took note of the complaints made by small political parties regarding fair access to funding and media.

The pre-electoral delegation stressed that the electoral legislation, as amended in 2011, will increase the effective choice of citizens: the introduction of closed lists and the end of the "party-administrated mandates", the abolition of "blank resignations", an improved access of women to parliament, by means of a gender quota, are valuable steps. While noting that this framework provides conditions for competitive elections, it urged all political parties to implement these changes in good faith and in the spirit of the law. The introduction of a single list of voters countrywide is also a positive step.

The pre-electoral mission considered that the newly-adopted Law on Funding of Political Activity, which regulates campaign expenses, will improve the transparency of the elections and the accountability of political parties. However, many interlocutors expressed their suspicion that corruption might occur nevertheless. The pre-electoral delegation therefore calls on the authorities to ensure that the Anti-Corruption Agency will have adequate human and financial resources to monitor the funding of the electoral campaign in a proper and transparent way.

The pre-electoral mission is concerned by the economic and political pressure exerted against journalists and calls on all political parties to refrain from influencing the editorial line of the media. The mission noted with satisfaction that the Republic’s Broadcasting Agency ensures that equal free airtime is allocated to the political parties and that the rules on commercial advertisements are respected. The pre-electoral mission also expects political communication on the internet to comply with the electoral code of ethics.

The pre-electoral mission was informed of on-going discussions related to the possible organisation of parliamentary and presidential elections in Kosovo* and will follow the matter.

The Parliamentary Assembly will send a 26-member delegation to observe the parliamentary and early presidential elections on 6 May 2012.

The delegation had meetings with Slavica Đukić Dejanović, Speaker of Parliament, Ivica Dačić, First Deputy Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Duško Radaković, State Secretary, Ministry of Human and Minority Rights, Public Administration and Local Self-Government, the President of the Republic Electoral Commission, the President of the Republic’s Broadcasting Agency, representatives of the main parliamentary caucuses, regretting however that the representatives of the main opposition parliamentary caucus, Forward Serbia, could not meet the delegation members. Meetings were also organised with representatives of the OSCE and the ODIHR delegations and representatives of civil society and the media.

* All reference to Kosovo, whether to the territory, institutions or population, in this text shall be understood in full compliance with United Nations Security Council Resolution 1244 and without prejudice to the status of Kosovo.

Members of the delegation:

Jean-Charles Gardetto (Monaco, EPP/CD), head of the delegation
Bernard Marquet (Monaco, ALDE)
Indrek Saar (Estonia, SOC)
Karin Woldseth (Norway, EDG)