Belgrade to Hold New Elections Amid Fraud Allegations

Written by Henrik Rothen

Mar.03 - 2024 10:36 AM CET

Photo: Wiki Commons
Photo: Wiki Commons
Belgrade to Hold New Elections Amid Fraud Allegations.

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In response to allegations of electoral irregularities during the December 2023 municipal and legislative elections in Serbia, Belgrade's interim mayor has announced plans for a fresh vote in the Serbian capital. This decision, revealed on Saturday according to Digi24, comes after international observers raised concerns over the integrity of the previous election process.

Background of the Decision

Acting Mayor Aleksandar Sapic, representing the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) led by President Aleksandar Vucic (of the nationalist right), which emerged victorious in the elections, stated,

"We have decided (...) to have new elections in Belgrade."

This announcement followed critiques by the Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which in late February condemned the December elections.

The OSCE highlighted "the decisive involvement of the president" and "systemic advantages of the party in power," labeling the conditions for candidates as unfair. Notably, reports from international observers before this had indicated "vote-buying" and "ballot box stuffing," particularly in Belgrade.

Despite these allegations, a request by the opposition to nullify the election results was denied by the Supreme Court of Serbia. Sapic clarified that the decision for a re-vote was not directly linked to fraud accusations or challenges in forming a majority.

"We set the bar very high (regarding the legitimacy of the vote). We made a decision that is not favorable to us, but we are not afraid," he explained.

Presidential Endorsement for New Elections

On the same day, President Vucic, who does not officially lead the ruling party, urged the SNS to initiate new elections in Belgrade.

The opposition coalition Serbia Against Violence (SPN) hailed the decision as a triumph for those who challenged the election's validity. Dobrica Veselinovic, a leader of the SNP coalition within the Green-Left Front, expressed to AFP,

"The organization of new elections in Belgrade is a victory for the observers, for the citizens who filmed and photographed evidence of fraud, for civil society, for the entire opposition." Veselinovic emphasized the importance of establishing fair conditions for the upcoming elections.

Concerns Raised by Observers

OSCE observers criticized the electoral campaign for being marred by "harsh rhetoric, media bias, pressure on public sector employees, and misuse of public resources," underlining the need for improvements to ensure a fair and transparent election process in Belgrade.

This move towards new elections represents a significant step in addressing these concerns and restoring confidence in Serbia's electoral system.

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