- Secrecy of vote breached, group voting, manipulation of voter registration and forged signatures, among alleged offences
- Orchestrated attacks by Serbian officials on elections observers, including MEPs
- Call for the suspension of EU funding on the basis of severe breaches of the rule of law
Elections in Serbia on 17 December 2023 were not held in just conditions, according to MEPs, who call for an independent investigation into the irregularities.
Due to the incumbents’ persistent and systematic abuse of institutions and media to gain an unfair advantage, the latest Serbian parliamentary and local elections fell “below the expected standards for an EU candidate country”, say MEPs.
In a resolution adopted on Thursday by 461 votes in favour, 53 against and 43 abstentions, Parliament points out that, although smoothly conducted, the election held on 17 December 2023 was marked by numerous procedural deficiencies. Among these, it points to the inconsistent application of safeguards during voting and counting, frequent instances of overcrowding, breaches in secrecy of the vote, and numerous instances of group voting.
Reminding the Serbian authorities that “the proper functioning of Serbia's democratic institutions is at the core of Serbia's EU accession process”, MEPs call for an independent investigation by respected international legal experts and institutions into the parliamentary, provincial and local elections’ irregularities, with special attention to the City of Belgrade Assembly elections.
No institutional response to alleged manipulation, no sanctions for offenders
MEPs deplore the lack of institutional response to serious suspicions that the incumbents were involved in electoral manipulation and abuse, which, they stress, sustains impunity and ensures these practices persist. The Parliament also condemns the lack of results in prosecuting and sanctioning electoral offences, including serious allegations of unlawful manipulation of the Voter Registry and voting rights, pressures and intimidation against citizens and election candidates, cases of corruption, forging citizens’ signatures, clientelism, and illegitimate and unlawful abuse of citizens’ data.
Referring to “the orchestrated attacks by Serbian officials on elections observers, including Members of the European Parliament”, plenary demands a return to respectful and constructive discourse, emphasizing the importance of mutual respect in the democratic process.
Unethical reporting and disinformation, lack of media pluralism
The Parliament condemns the absence of media pluralism during the election campaign, disinformation and abundant unethical and biased media reporting in favour of the incumbents. Over the last decade since President Vučić came to power, there has been a constant erosion of media freedom in Serbia, characterised by political pressure, threats and even physical attacks against journalists, warn MEPs.
Suspension of EU funds
Accession negotiations with Serbia should advance only if the country makes significant progress on its EU-related reforms, including full implementation of the election recommendations of the OSCE/ODIHR and Venice Commission, stresses the resolution. ,If the Serbian authorities are unwilling to implement the key election recommendations or if the findings of investigation indicate that the Serbian authorities were directly involved in the voter fraud, MEPs call for EU funding to be suspended on the basis of severe breaches of the rule of law in connection with Serbia’s elections.
The final ODHIR report is expected to be published in the coming weeks.