16 December 2022 National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs

16 December 2022 National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs

Friday, 16 December 2022

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs Takes Part in 133rd Venice Commission Plenary Session

National Assembly Deputy Speaker Elvira Kovacs took part in the 133rd plenary session of the Council of Europe’s European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission), on 16 and 17 December 2022 in Venice.

At the session, the participants discussed and adopted the Draft Joint Opinion of the Venice Commission and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) on the constitutional and legal framework governing the functioning of democratic institutions in the Republic in the light of electoral legislation and electoral administration.

In her presentation, MP Elvira Kovacs expressed the National Assembly's gratitude for the Venice Commission’s exceptional readiness to provide professional assistance and expertise to the Republic of Serbia during the previous year first in the preparation of constitutional amendments in the field of judiciary, followed by the new Law on Referendum and People's Initiative and at present the most current new laws in the field of the judiciary. In that sense, she expressed gratitude for the prepared draft of the joint opinion to the Venice Commission rapporteurs and ODIHR experts who were involved in the process of preparing this draft.

She pointed out that the prepared opinion is extremely useful and important for the Republic of Serbia, given that the circumstances in which the new electoral laws were adopted did not allow the Venice Commission to be involved in the process of their drafting, so the opinion will represent an important instrument for ex-post analysis of the effects of the new electoral legislation.

She reminded the attending that regular presidential and extraordinary parliamentary elections were held in the Republic of Serbia at the beginning of April this year, all of which was preceded by the adoption of three new electoral laws, as well as the new Law on Financing Political Activities, at the beginning of February, i.e. two months before the elections. In that regard, she noted that an objection could be made that this situation is in principle not in accordance with the Code of Good Practice in Electoral Matters of the Venice Commission, but she stressed that the adoption of these laws was preceded by inter-party dialogues on the improvement of electoral conditions conducted during 2021, which yielded a number of agreements and documents that, in the end, resulted in numerous new legal solutions, a large number of which aimed precisely at improving the position of the, at that moment, non-parliamentary opposition, as is noted in the draft opinion itself.

She went on to say that the adoption of new electoral laws was generally accepted, although there was a fear of how some of the new solutions would be implemented in practice, as in the case of the introduction, for the first time, of local electoral commissions into the electoral process at the national level, which were until then responsible exclusively for conducting local elections.

Regarding the aforementioned introduction of local election commissions into the election process at the national level, she pointed out that this, as well as numerous other solutions in the new election laws, is the result of the implementation of the recommendations contained in the ODIHR reports on the monitoring of a series of election processes in the Republic of Serbia. In that sense, she went on to say, the informal comments ODIHR submitted on the drafts of these laws at the beginning of January of this year, meant a lot in the preparation of new election laws and had a significant impact on their final formulation before submission into parliamentary procedure.

She emphasised that the Republic of Serbia is committed to harmonising its electoral legislation with international standards and assumed obligations, to which end it has taken all of the comments and recommendations contained in the ODIHR reports into most serious consideration, so much so that a special working group was formed within the Government in 2019 for cooperation with ODIHR precisely for the purpose of implementing these recommendations.
She noted, however, that the way ODIHR recommendations can and should be incorporated into the legal system of the Republic of Serbia depends not only on their compliance with the constitutional order of the Republic of Serbia, but on our political culture and political discourse in the Republic of Serbia as well.

Speaking of the participation of national minorities in electoral processes, MP Elvira Kovacs said that affirmative action measures in the previous period have allowed national minority political parties to self-organise and participate in elections and that the current legal solutions are effective. She stressed that, regardless of the fact that certain EU member states and countries from the region have the option of secured mandates for national minorities in their parliaments, after a comparative analysis, it can be noted that a complete parallel cannot be drawn between them and the Republic of Serbia with its abundance of national minorities (23 in total) and that it is therefore impossible to provide political representation for everyone in the National Assembly. She added that such a system would not be fair to those national minority political parties that have been working for 25 years both on their organisation and honest representation of their interests. It that regard, she assessed that it is necessary to regulate the conditions for the registration of minority parties more precisely in order to prevent potential abuses of the legal benefits guaranteed to minority parties, and to require that a political party, in order to register as a minority party, make it clear in its name which minority it represents, adding that the same should be requested of minority electoral lists, which would prevent the current practice of misleading voters by the choice of party and electoral list name.

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