Venice Commission: draft law on referendum in Serbia positive, needs improvement

NEWS 24.09.2021 20:41
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Source: N1

The Venice Commission welcomed the efforts by the Serbian authorities to bring legislation in line with international standards but criticized the fact that law on referendums was being revised only when a constitutional referendum was imminent.

“Amendments to the fundamental provisions of this legislation should be applied less than one year after their adoption only if they ensure conformity with the standards of the European electoral heritage or implement recommendations by international organisations. The Venice Commission recommends holding the next referendum late enough to make the revised law really applicable to it. The amendments should be adopted by broad consensus and by taking account of the public consultations with all relevant stakeholders,” the Commission’s urgent opinion said.

It said that several issues should be dealt with in a revised version of the draft. “The Venice Commission notably recommends clearly defining the various types of referendums and the provisions applicable to them; the questions which can and cannot be submitted to referendum; the hierarchical rank of the provisions submitted to referendum (constitutional or statutory) and the effect of the request for a referendum on the current legislation. It recommends reconsidering the extension of the right to vote to owners of real estate, or at least to clearly detail this extension,” it said.

It added that no fee should be required for signature authentication, all voters should have the right to appeal, and the deadlines to file and rule on complaints and appeals should be reasonably extended.

“Private media should not be required to keep neutrality; it would suffice to ensure equal conditions for radio and television advertising for private and public mass media,” the Venice Commission said.

The Venice Commission also recommended a review of the electoral administration to ensure its independence as well as reconsidering restrictions on who can conduct electoral campaigns, the financing of those campaigns; extending the deadline between the calling of a referendum and the vote; and restricting the discretionary use by the Assembly to reduce this deadline, in particular for constitutional referendums. Easing the requirements on the collection of signatures for people’s initiatives is also recommended.