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NEWS 28 Mar 17

Few Foreign Observers to Monitor Serbian Elections

At least 17 foreign organisations will monitor Serbia’s presidential elections, but with the OSCE only sending a limited mission, domestic NGOs will carry the greater burden of reporting irregularities.

Vanja Djuric
BIRN
Novi Sad
Members of State Electoral Commission Photo: Beta 

Serbia’s Republic Electoral Commission told BIRN that so far it has granted 17 foreign organisations permission to monitor the presidential elections on April 2 – but crucially, the number of poll observers from the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe, OSCE, will be far fewer than at previous ballots.

Domestic observers:

Center for Transparency, Research and Accountability, CRTA – Citizens on Watch

Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CESID

Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, YUKOM

Domestic organisations that need to amend applications:

Center for Development of Non-Profit Sector, CRNPS

Roma Center for Strategy, Development and Democracy

Foreign observers:

Central Electoral Commission of the Russian Federation

Central Electoral Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina

Embassy of Bulgaria

Embassy of the United States

Embassy of the United Kingdom

Danish Initiative for Dialogue and Democracy, SILBA

Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, PACE

The Eurasia Center (Washington-based NGO)

OSCE/ODIHR

Embassy of Italy

Embassy of Australia

Embassy of Canada

Embassy of Poland

Embassy of Germany

Embassy of Nigeria

Embassy of Switzerland

Foreign observers awaiting Republic Electoral Commission approval:

EU Delegation to Serbia

Inter-Parliamentary Assembly of the Commonwealth of Independent States

Embassy of France

Embassy of Holland

Embassy of Romania

Embassy of Sweden

Embassy of Austria

Foreign observers awaiting Serbian foreign ministry approval:

Macedonian Electoral Commission

World Peace Volunteers, Ghana

As well as the limited OSCE mission, electoral commissions from Russia and Bosnia and various embassies, including those of the US, Britain, Germany and Switzerland, are deploying observers.

The Republic Electoral Commission also said that it has yet to decide on seven other requests, such as those for observers from the EU delegation to Serbia and the embassies of France, Austria and The Netherlands.

The OSCE has previously said that it will not have observers at polling stations or carry out systematic observation of the vote count because not enough advance warning was given by the authorities to prepare a full-scale mission.

The European security body, which has monitored the previous 15 elections in Serbia, will for the first time not carry out systematic or comprehensive observation of voting, counting and tabulation on election day.

Alexandre Keltchewsky, who is leading the mission for the OSCE and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, ODIHR, told N1 TV on Monday that it would depend a lot on local NGOs to closely monitor the elections.

“In a situation like this, when we do not have long-term observers, we rely most on local observing missions, NGOs. Their role is even more important than ours,” Keltchewsky said.

“That is why it is very important for them to have the possibility, as well as political parties’ observers, to monitor the whole process, because there are many more then us this year,” he added.

The commission has yet to announce the full list of local organisations accredited to monitor the elections, as the deadline for applications expired on Monday at midnight.

On Monday morning, the commission told BIRN that it had already approved requests from the Belgrade-based NGOs Center for Transparency, Research and Accountability, CRTA, the Center for Free Elections and Democracy, CESID, and the Lawyers’ Committee for Human Rights, YUKOM.

The Center for Development of Non-Profit Sector, CRNPS, and the Roma Center for Strategy, Development and Democracy have been asked for additional documentation.

In its email to BIRN, the Republic Electoral Commission said that up to March 24, it had not received any request to monitor the election process in Kosovo.

The OSCE issued a pre-election assessment report this month which expressed concerns about “confidence in the lower-level election commissions, accuracy of the voter register, conduct of the campaign, especially regarding possible voter intimidation, vote-buying, and the potential misuse of administrative resources”.

“Most previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations remain unaddressed, and specific aspects that could merit attention by an OSCE/ODIHR election observation activity include the conduct of the campaign, campaign finance and media coverage,” the assessment said.

“Given the concerns shared by civil society organisations about their ability to deploy observers and the issues raised by multiple stakeholders on election day, the management of proceeding at polling stations on election day may benefit from further scrutiny,” it added.

Keltchewsky told N1 TV that he expects issues that were highlighted in reports on previous elections in Serbia will recur this time.

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