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Serbia: statement of the pre-electoral mission

Belgrade, 20.02.2014 – A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) has just ended a visit to Belgrade to assess the campaign and the preparations for the 16 March 2014 early parliamentary elections.

The delegation noted that preparation for the elections had been smooth, while pointing out that these early parliamentary elections, called less than two years after the previous ones, might have an impact on major democratisation reforms launched by the authorities. According to some of the delegation’s interlocutors, many political parties and entities are conducting passive campaigning due to financial difficulties. The delegation noted that, for most of the political parties, the campaign so far has focused mainly on economic and social issues, on the fight against corruption and on European integration.

The pre-electoral delegation welcomes the first report of the Anti-Corruption Agency on the financing of the last election campaign, and encourages the Agency to continue its work to improve the transparency of parties’ campaign funding and their accountability.

The PACE delegation calls on political parties and entities to refrain from misusing administrative resources; on election day special attention should be paid to ensuring that all voting procedures are respected, especially in rural areas.

According to official statistics, the political parties did not all receive equal airtime at the beginning of the election campaign. In this regard the Republic’s Broadcasting Agency assured the delegation that equal free airtime will be allocated to the political parties, and that the rules on commercial advertising will be respected. The delegation calls on all political parties to refrain from influencing the editorial line of the media, and also expects political communication on the internet and via social networks to comply with the electoral code of ethics.

The pre-electoral mission welcomed the agreement reached between Belgrade and Pristina on voting by the citizens of Serbia resident in Kosovo*. The delegation was informed that the elections would be organised with the assistance of the OSCE. Concerning the participation of minority parties, the pre-electoral delegation regrets that most of the Albanian parties decided to boycott these elections.

The pre-electoral delegation was assured by relevant authorities that the early parliamentary elections will be held according to the Council of Europe’s standards for democratic elections.

The Assembly will send a 22-member delegation to observe the early parliamentary elections on 16 March 2014.

The delegation had meetings with Ivica Dačić, Prime Minister and Interior Minister, Nebojša Stefanović, Speaker of Parliament, the Serbian delegation to PACE, the Executive Director of the Council of the Republic’s Broadcasting Agency, the Deputy Head of the Anti-Corruption Agency, the President of the Republic Electoral Commission, and the leaders and representatives of the main parliamentary caucuses. Meetings were also organised with representatives of the diplomatic corps, international organisations and missions and representatives of civil society and the media.

The delegation wishes to thank the National Assembly for the excellent co-operation during its visit.

Members of the delegation:

Pedro Agramunt (Spain, EPP/CD), Head of the Delegation,
Igor Ivanovski, (ʺthe former Yugoslav Republic of Macedoniaʺ, SOC)
Ingebjørg Amanda Godskesen (Norway, EDG)
Grigore Petrenco (Moldova, UEL) 

* 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.