The European Network of Election Monitoring Organisations (ENEMO) said on Monday that allegations of intimidation of voters and vote-buying during the election campaign in Serbia affected the citizens' general trust in the election process.
The head of the ENEMO mission, Pierre Peytier, told reporters in Belgrade that the election campaign was „largely disrupted“ by these allegations and accusations, „especially those directed at civil servants by ruling coalition parties.“
„Many of these forms of pressure were cited as continuous, and they began long before the official start of the election process,“ Peytier said.
He added that „the long-term practice of abuse of state resources and abuse of official position significantly limited the possibilities for equal conditions.“
„The blurring of the border between the party and the state is contrary to international standards and was expected to affect the environment in which the campaign took place negatively,“ he said.
Peytier added that, according to their observations, the transparency of campaign financing increased, but that several reports were still not available on the website of the Anti-Corruption Agency.
„The lack of a proactive attitude of the Agency, which would reflect in eliminating this shortcoming in time, and the absence of sanctions taken before election day due to non-compliance with this legal requirement, are reasons for concern,“ he underlined.
In the limited number of polling stations monitored by ENEMO, Peytier said the entire procedure, including counting votes, mainly was conducted according to the law.
„However, the Mission was informed of attacks and physical clashes near polling stations, violence against candidates and long lines of voters in front of polling stations“ after the polls closed at 8 pm, he added.
Peytier said the ENEMO would remain in Serbia in April to monitor the post-election process. He would submit the final report two to three months after the official announcement of the election results.
ENEMO analyst Ana Mikeladze said the voter registration process lacked transparency and expressed concern regarding the accuracy of the voter list.
„Mostly concerning the dead voters on the voter lists and the allegations about phantom voters,“ Mikeladze said.
She added that the number of registered voters for the referendum held in January was about 7,500 higher than the number of voters in the April elections, saying „there was no clear explanation for that reduction“.
Legal expert Nina Rihamadze said the legal framework in which the elections were held underwent „significant changes“ two months before the elections by adopting recommendations from domestic and foreign observation organisations.
„However, key aspects of the election remained unaddressed. ENEMO notes that the recent amendment process was a missed opportunity to further address shortcomings in media coverage, campaign finance regulations and misuse of administrative resources that would reduce inequality among election participants,“ she said.