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News 09 Apr 17

Serbian Presidency Candidates Spar Over 'Poll Irregularities'

Serbia’s electoral commission was forced to hold a televised recount of some votes after opposition challenger Sasa Jankovic disputed PM Aleksandar Vucic’s poll results in 25 constituencies.

BIRN Team
BIRN
Belgrade
The Republic Electoral Commission debates vote recount in front of TV cameras on Sunday. Photo: Beta

The Republic Electoral Commission recounted votes from two polling stations in front of TV cameras on Sunday after allegations of irregularities were raised by opposition presidential candidate Sasa Jankovic.

The recount was urged by Serbian Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic, who won last Sunday’s presidential elections and denies any electoral fraud.

The recount of votes from the two polling stations showed that Vucic received four fewer votes than initially counted, but is unlikely to resolve opposition concerns about the vote.
Jankovic, Serbia’s former ombudsman, who came second in the presidential elections, claimed on Saturday evening that the elections were rigged in Vucic’s favour.

According to Jankovic’s team, a check-up of the documents from 25 polling stations found that in 24 of them, there were irregularities in Vucic’s favour.

While in most polling stations that were checked by Jankovic’s team, it was a matter of two to three votes’ difference from the official tally, in several places, dozens or even hundreds more votes were incorrectly assigned to Vucic.

In one polling station in the southern town of Novi Pazar, Vucic was assigned 543 more votes than he actually won, according to Jankovic’s team.

At another polling station in Novi Pazar, Vucic was assigned 250 extra votes, Jankovic’s team alleged.

The Republic Electoral Commission’s recount came after Vucic dismissed the accusations of electoral fraud as a “notorious lie” on Sunday and said that the votes should be recounted in front of TV cameras.

“I never stole anything. And this water that I am drinking now, I will pay for with my own money,” Vucic told press conference on Saturday.

Despite the recounts, opposition members of the Electoral Commission voiced concerns, because the new tallies were effectively ordered by Vucic.

They insisted that the recount should have included all 25 polling stations flagged as dubious by the opposition, not just two.

Vucic’s Serbian Progressive Party could not be immediately reached for a comment on Sunday morning.

The dispute comes amid daily protests since the April 2 vote, with people rallying against Vucic and his impending switch from premier to president.

The protesters gathered after calls on social media claimed Vucic's supporters had rigged the vote, which gave him an overwhelming victory with 54 per cent of the vote.

Demonstrators in Belgrade, Novi Sad, Nis, Kragujevac, Kraljevo, Sombor and a dozen other towns have been rallying against what they call Vucic’s ‘dictatorship’.

NGOs monitoring the elections stated that on election day they noted irregularities in three per cent of polling stations, which they said could not affect the result.

Jankovic’s team also alleged that a few votes for other candidates have been found among the invalid votes, and that the number of votes for opposition candidates that went on record was lower then the actual number of ballots they won.

According to the preliminary results, Vucic won 55 per cent of the votes, winning the presidency outright without the need for a run-off, and Jankovic came second with 16.3 per cent.

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