The Centre for Free Elections and Democracy (CeSID) has published the final report of its monitoring mission for the 2018 local election in Belgrade. The document analyses the electoral process and highlights the need for launching public debate designed to improve public confidence in the electoral process and make comprehensive changes to the electoral system in line with recommendations made by both Serbian and foreign observers.

CeSID underlines the necessity of implementing a set of short-term measures to reinforce election integrity: educating the electoral administration; streamlining regulations to tighten financial reporting deadlines, improve financial statements, and allow the Anti-Corruption Agency to publish its findings sooner; making scanned polling station minutes available to the public; and opening the preliminary electoral roll to public scrutiny. In the long run, wide-ranging reforms are needed to the electoral administration: central authorities ought to have their powers reviewed and should become able to take unprompted action; services that maintain the electoral roll should also benefit from capacity-building assistance.

According to the report, numerous issues have been recurring in each election. The electoral administration lacks transparency, polling boards do not receive systematic training, and the broadcasting regulator REM does not play an active role or adequately monitor media reporting. Public officials have been known to abuse office for party political purposes, whilst parallel voter records are maintained at some polling stations.

Fundamental civic rights were respected, but not all participants in the election faced a level playing field, mainly as candidates of the governing coalition appeared both in official and party political contexts, which skewed media coverage in their favour. Data from the CeSID sample do not deviate from official results, and, as such, events at polling stations or any instances of abuse cannot be said to have had an impact on the final outcome or legitimacy of the election.

CeSID’s experience with observing elections to date shows that institutions and participants in elections face numerous problems and challenges. Therefore, unless significant changes are made, such irregularities can be expected to recur.

CeSID observed polling day on a random, representative sample of 300 polling stations. CeSID is a member of the Global Network of Domestic Election Monitors (GNDEM) and the European Network of Elections Monitoring Organisations (ENEMO).