Are the draft amendments and supplements to Law on Public Enterprises, Law on Anti-Corruption Agency and Law on Financing Political Activities adequate and sufficient to achieve their intended aim - improving the electoral process, is subject to analysis of Nemanja Nenadić in the new prEUgovor publication. The author assesses the drafted legislative changes and proposes specific improvements of certain provisions.

Comments on the Amendments and Supplements to the Set of Laws Aimed at Improving the Electoral Process

A set of draft legislative changes to three laws aimed at improvement of electoral process were subject to public debate in October:

Legislative changes were prepared by the Working group established at the end of August with the task to cooperate with OSCE and its specialized body ODIHR in order to implement their recommendations on improving the electoral process. Recommendations were derived from previous OSCE/ODIHR election monitoring and assessment missions in Serbia since 2003, the last one on presidential elections held in 2017.

According to the official explanations of these draft amendments and supplements, the following recommendations from the Final report on 2017 elections were to be addressed:

To guarantee a level playing field among contestants, the separation between party and state activities needs to be strictly abided by.”

Party and campaign finance provisions stand to be further improved in line with previous OSCE/ODIHR recommendations with a view to tighten regulation and enhance transparency.”

Authorities should take decisive action to prevent pressure on voters, including employees of state or state-affiliated institutions. Cases of alleged coercion need to be investigated and individuals responsible held accountable.

The author criticises the Draft Law on Supplements to the Law on Public Enterprises for its excessively narrow approach and inconsistency with other proposals of the same Working Group, as well as for not taking into account suggestions previously given by civil society organizations, even if the explanation accompanying the Draft Law claims to have done so. It is not clear whether drafting process was also based on eventual previous experiences of relevant state authorities related to the abuse of resources of public enterprises for political promotion, which manifestations of such abuses have been recorded in practice to date etc.

The author believes that the presented Draft Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on the Anti-Corruption Agency fails to solve the key problems of the use of public resources, which, according to all the relevant findings of monitoring the electoral process, happen to be the most prevalent. These changes do not solve the issue of “public officials’ campaign”, that is, the targeted creation and timing of events and activities of public officials that serves to ensure additional promotion in media news programmes and contact with potential voters just before the elections.

The Draft Law on Amendments and Supplements to the Law on Financing Political Activities does not adequately meet the provided OSCE/ODIHR recommendation, and it ignores other relevant assessments and proposals, it is concluded in the text. Even though the Draft Law would increase the transparency of the work of the Anti-Corruption Agency (its acting upon complaints) to a certain extent, it would in no way increase the transparency of the election campaign financing process itself. Also, the envisaged sanctions remain within the existing range of fines imposed for misdemeanour offences, and the changes cover only one of the many possible misdemeanour and criminal offenses related to unlawful financing.

The content of this publication was submitted to the relevant institutions on 22 October in the form of comments, as part of a formal public debate on the above mentioned draft laws.

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