5 April 2016 The members of the PACE pre-electoral observation mission in visit to the National Assembly
Tuesday, 5 April 2016
PACE Pre-Electoral Mission Visits National Assembly
A delegation of the pre-electoral mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), headed by Volodymyr Ariev, had separate meetings today with representatives of the parliamentary groups in the National Assembly.
Deputy Head of the Serbian Progressive Party Parliamentary Group Aleksandar Martinovic said that the elections called for 24 April for the Assembly of the Autonomous Province of Vojvodina and the local elections are regular elections. The early parliamentary elections were called because a part of the public and media had propagated an image of a dysfunctional Government, i.e. the benefits and results of the 2014 governmental measures have been called into question, and questions have been raised whether there is an alternative to the policy pursued by the Government of the Republic of Serbia, said Martinovic.
“When this question was raised, especially the soundness of the economic policy, the Prime Minister decided to have an election so that the public can decide whether they support the Government’s policy or see an alternative to that policy. The Serbian Progressive Party is of the opinion that the citizens should be asked what they think is best and if they decide to support the Serbian Progressive Party, then the Government will have the mandate to conduct all the necessary reforms by 2020 to format Serbia’s system and prepare it for EU accession, which is the country’s strategic goal”, concluded Martinovic.
He said that the Government is firmly committed to cooperation with the Russian Federation and China and that four years are quite enough to complete the ongoing reform in Serbia, which has already given results, especially as regards fiscal consolidation.
“All the analyses say that in the next two years we can expect dynamic growth and a rise in DGP so we expect, if the citizens support our coalition, that they will very soon feel the benefits and positive results of the Government’s efforts”, added Martinovic.
He hopes that the coalition gathered around the Serbian Progressive Party would win more mandates than in the previous election, and that regardless of the number of seats in the parliament, Serbia’s progress to the EU would not be called into question since the majority of the political parties share a common strategic goal – Serbia’s EU accession.
“We have all the prerequisites to meet the conditions to become an EU member state by 2020, but that does not depend on us alone. Our coalition believes it is important to build up Serbia from the inside according to European principles, to incorporate all the positive EU beliefs into our system and I hope the citizens of Serbia will recognise our efforts”, added Martinovic.
He restated that there is no better economic community than that of the EU states and that the best course for Serbia is to become a member, but added that Serbia would continue to cultivate good political and economic relations with the Russian Federation and that it had in the past two years endeavoured to pursue a balanced foreign policy, as well as good neighbourly policy with the countries in the region.
The Head of the Social Democratic Party of Serbia Parliamentary Group Milorad Mijatovic said that the election campaign is free of media monopoly, that it is decent, free of foul language, and that the coalition gathered around the Serbian Progressive Party, which the Social Democratic Party of Serbia is part of, is leading a positive campaign, highlighting the results achieved in the previous period and the policy it pursues.
“We are proud of the opening of the first EU negotiation chapters, and the opening of chapters 23 and 24 in the coming period will be very beneficial to us. We see the elections as a test and guarantee that in the four years we will be a state that conducts reforms and that we will do what we promised to the citizens”, stressed Mijatovic.
He restated that the coalition gathered around the Serbian Progressive Party is committed to the European path, cooperation with Russia, China and countries in the region, that it strives for peaceful solutions and talks, as well as the realisation of the Brussels Agreement which would lead to the normalisation of living conditions for the people in Kosovo.
In the next meeting, members of the Socialist Party of Serbia Parliamentary Group Zarko Obradovic and Dijana Vukomanovic, as well as the Deputy Head of United Serbia Parliamentary Group Petar Petrovic and the PACE delegation discussed the course of the election campaign, reasons for the early parliamentary elections, the SPS coalition’s position on the early elections and the expected results.
Zarko Obradovic said that the Socialist Party of Serbia-United Serbia was a minority partner in the current Government and had accepted the Prime Minister’s stance that there should be an early election, even though it did not fully agree in view of the EU accession process and the impact of the election process on the economy and society.
“We accepted the Prime Minister’s stance to ask for the citizens’ support for the coming reforms. The Socialist Party of Serbia insists on the principle of social justice, improvement of education and healthcare, protection of employees and the environment, and we believe that by cooperating with the Serbian Progressive Party we can improve the content of the legislation passed in Serbia”, said Obradovic.
Speaking of the relationship with the Serbian Progressive Party, Obradovic said that there are no negative elements to it and the elections have not brought its quality into question. He also added that the Socialist Party of Serbia expected more mandates in the National Assembly after the elections.
Dijana Vukomanovic informed the PACE colleagues that the current parliamentary legislature is pro-European i.e. all the parliamentary parties are committed to Serbia’s EU accession, which might change after the elections. She stressed that the Socialist Party of Serbia wishes to put emphasis on strengthening local self-government and insists on good regional cooperation, into which a lot had been invested in the previous period because Serbia is not a source of instability in the region. Vukomanovic added that in the previous elections the Socialist Party of Serbia had won about half a million votes, and after the coming elections sees itself as part of the new Government.
Deputy Head of United Serbia Parliamentary Group Petar Petrovic said that his party agrees with the Socialist Party of Serbia about the elections, but they accepted the decision of their biggest partner to have the elections. He said that United Serbia’s goals are similar to those of the Serbian Progressive Party, but they differ in the manner and speed of their achievement. United Serbia insists on giving more rights to local self-governments and decentralisation in the European sense, as well as combating “birth dearth” i.e. raising the birth rate in Serbia, stressed Petrovic. He also added that United Serbia is in favour of granting the same rights to domestic as well as foreign investors, when they create new jobs.
“We expect the coalition have better results in the elections, which will improve our capacity for further talks”, concluded Petrovic.
The Head of the Democratic Party Parliamentary Group Natasa Vuckovic and the Chairperson of the Culture and Information Committee MP Vesna Marjanovic spoke about the election process in Serbia, the situation in the media and the role of independent regulatory bodies in the election process.
Natasa Vuckovic said that the elections have been called despite the Government having the majority in the National Assembly and that the endless early elections are destabilising the reform process. She added that since 2012 Serbia has been in a constant campaigning atmosphere.
“In the local election held in several cities in the last four years there have been serious acts of violence and attacks against opposition functionaries and activists. The perpetrators have not been brought before justice”, stressed Vuckovic informing the PACE delegation about the violence against Democratic Party MPs and activists near Djeram green market in Belgrade, resulting from the pervasive atmosphere of conflict and violence created by the majority both in the public and the National Assembly.
Vesna Marjanovic briefed the PACE pre-electoral mission on the unequal media coverage of the opposition’s pre-electoral activities, drawing particular attention to the work of the Council of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media. She informed the delegation about the process of election of candidates for the Council of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media adding that it is no accident that two members of the Authority have not been elected before the elections in Serbia. She also stressed that the media do not fully follow the instructions of the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media and that there is plenty information that the Serbian Progressive Party’s media presence is double that of the Democratic Party. She added that many of the parties have very little representation, that there is no balance and that the Democratic Party had complained to the Regulatory Authority for Electronic Media, but has so far not received any response.
“The problem is that the in most news shows the campaign appears by having all of the Prime Minister’s activities presented as regular Government activities, which is not always the case, and the election blocks in the news are marginalised”, concluded Marjanovic.
The meeting also touched on the Anti-Corruption Agency’s activities in the election process, and the anti-Ombudsman campaign from the previous period which has, according to the representatives of the Democratic Party Parliamentary Group, had an impact on the parliament, independent institutions and the society as a whole.
The Head of the Boris Tadic – Social Democratic Party, Together for Serbia Parliamentary Group Marko Djurisic spoke about media freedom and the role of media in the pre-election campaign, as well as conducting the elections in a fair and democratic atmosphere. MP Marko Djurisic underlined the importance of the principle of equal representation of political parties in the media in the pre-election period. Djurisic also spoke about the participation of political parties in the pre-election process and explained to the members of the pre-electoral mission of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe how budget funds were allocated to political parties for their activities in the electoral process.
The Head and Deputy Head of the SDA Sandzak – Party of Democratic Action Parliamentary Group Dr Sulejman Ugljanin and Riza Halimi and member of the SDA Sandzak – Party of Democratic Action Parliamentary Group MP Enis Imamovic also met with the PACE delegation. They discussed the role of the media in the pre-election campaign and the problem of candidates’ presentation in the Bosniak language. Dr Sulejman Ugljanin said that he is unable to address the voters in the Bosniak language and that so far he had appeared in one TV show with a nation-wide frequency as an electoral candidate. The MPs also pointed out that the coming elections should be conducted in a democratic atmosphere of equal opportunities for all. MP Riza Halimi explained that the problem of electoral rolls which are only partially completed in Albanian remains unresolved. MP Enis Imamovic spoke about the conditions under which the elections called for 24 April 2016 are being prepared, allocation of polling stations in six municipalities: Novi Pazar, Tutin, Sjenica, Nova Varos, Priboj and Prijepolje, as well as the security of the citizens on the day of the elections.
Besides the head of the PACE pre-electoral mission Volodymyr Ariev, the meetings were also attended by delegation members Rene Rouquet, Andrea Rigoni and Matjaž Hanžek.