European Western Balkans

Up to 200.000 citizens to vote again in Serbian election, opposition accuses government of further manipulation

Election day in Serbia; Photo: Tanjug

BELGRADE – Republic Electoral Commission in Serbia proclaimed the voting on 234 polling stations invalid due to irregularities and scheduled a repeat of the process for 1 July. According to the election observer CRTA, 203.346 citizens have the right to vote again, leaving an open possibility for a somewhat altered outcome.

CRTA confirmed for our portal that this is by far the biggest annulment of voting in the elections in Serbia during the past two decades. Last time the parliamentary election was held, in 2016, repeated voting took place again at only 15 polling stations, which was a record of its own – previous annulments included only single-digit numbers of polling stations. There are more than 8000 polling stations in the country.

Even though the ruling Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) won the election on Sunday overwhelmingly, winning more than 60% of the vote, the final results, including the number of people who voted, remain unknown.

President of Serbia and leader of SNS Aleksandar Vučić announced on Sunday that his party has won more than 2 million votes and that the turnout was 50,2%. Although the result appears to be close to both claims, there has been no official confirmation yet. Whether the turnout has crossed 50% or not has been the hotly debated topic ever since Sunday.

The biggest opposition coalition, the Alliance for Serbia, boycotted the election, claiming that they would not be free and fair. It maintains that the SNS falsified turnout numbers, which, according to the coalition, is in low forties, and accuses Republican Electoral Commission of delaying the announcement of final results because it is trying to manipulate them so that they would fit what SNS announced on Sunday.

Apart from SNS, only the junior coalition partner Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) and the party of the Novi Beograd mayor Aleksandar Šapić SPAS entered the parliament. Several other parties remained close to the recently lowered threshold of 3%.

The Alliance for Serbia also accused the ruling party that it is trying to “shove in” some of these parties in the new parliament to make it appear more legitimate – currently, SNS is projected to have won about 190 out of 250 seats, SPS 32 and SPAS 12. The rest is distributed to the national minority parties.

The parties closest to the threshold are the monarchist Movement for the Renewal of the Kingdom of Serbia (POKS), which is around 10.000 votes short; behind it are Eurosceptic “Dosta je bilo” and “Metla 2020”, both of which require around 20.000 votes to enter the parliament.

Even though it is not expected that all 200.000 voters will take part in the repeat of the election, there is a mathematical possibility for some of these parties to cross the threshold. Even then, they would have between 10 and 15 MPs, leaving SNS with a two-thirds majority.

Local election in Šabac annulled as well, the decision of the court pending

Local election in the city of Šabac was annulled on Thursday as well, following 42 different complaints from 100 polling stations in the city submitted by the mayor Nebojša Zelenović and his party. Šabac was one of only few local authorities not governed by SNS leading up to the election. According to the announcement by the party on Monday, it had managed to win this city as well, with 38 out of 69 councilors.

Among the complaints submitted by Zelenović is the lack of the control ballot in the ballot box at all polling stations in Šabac, unlawful voting outside the stations and lack of voter identification.

The decision of City Electoral Commission could be overturned by the Administrative Court in Novi Sad. Republican Electoral Commission has not annulled the parliamentary election in Šabac.

Hungarian minority party comes in third in the Southern Serbian city of Vranje

A result that attracted significant attention and has since become a topic of mockery on the social networks is the fact that the Alliance of Hungarians of Vojvodina (SVM) party came in third in the city of Vranje, which is located in the South of Serbia and, according to 2011 census, has 5 Hungarian inhabitants. The party, however, won more than 1200 votes in Vranje.

It appears that the voters of a village near Vranje were instructed to vote for the Serbian Right party – a satellite of the ruling SNS – which was fourth on the ballot for the local election. The voters, however, circled number four both on the ballot for local election and the ballot for the parliamentary election – which was occupied by the Alliance of Hungarians of Vojvodina.

Numerous other irregularities were recorded by CRTA monitors, whose programme director Raša Nedeljkov claimed that these were the most irregular election since his organisations is monitoring the cycles in Serbia (2012).

All complaints by CRTA were rejected by the Republican Electoral Commission.

Meanwhile, “Dosta je bilo” movement, which is one of the lists closest to the 3% threshold, stated that four bags containing the ballots they had an insight into did not align with the results submitted by the polling stations. According to the movement, this is a result of a fraud. However, their complaints were rejected by the REC as well.

With the serious lack of trust in the electoral process not going away even after the results were announced, it is increasingly hard to conclude that these elections will represent a progress for democracy in Serbia.

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Rok Zupančič