Thursday, May 10, 2012

Election in Serbia: Fraud, Fraud, Fraud!

Four days after the parliamentary elections in Serbia, election fraud accusations by the opposition and even by some allies of the Boris Tadić regime are electrifying the already charged Serbian political relationships. The alarming aspect of the allegations, which are due to happen after every election in most of democracies, is in the fact that the accusers, initially led by Movement Dveri and joined by the Serbian Progressive Party, the main opposition party, and the Alliance of the Hungarians of Vojvodina, the largest ethnic Hungarian party in Serbia, seem to be able to back them up with hard evidence of outright rigging of the election by the Tadić regime. 

Dveri began raising their voice in protest the night of the election, as soon as the first unofficial reports by election monitors, namely CeSID, were publicized and they showed that Dveri did not exceed the 5 percent parliamentary threshold. One of their leaders, Branimir Nešić, addressed the public via a video statement, claiming they did exceed the parliamentary threshold, but they would be kept out of the National Assembly due to election theft by the Tadić regime. He also pointed out that the official website of Dveri was hacked into several times during the election day. In the following days, Dveri intensified the public calls for justice, producing evidence one after another and even set the date for public protests in Belgrade on May 10. The public calls were made to all the aggrieved election participants to recognize and condemn the fraud and join the protests. 

In the meantime, the allegations of fraud just kept coming, laying bare not only specific instances of outright fraud in specific locations, but revealing broader strategies and specific tactics utilized. Video clips surfaced on You Tube, most importantly from Zaječar and Novi Sad, where independent reporters caught the regime red-handed. In Zaječar, the video showed ballots being stuffed into envelopes and bags without the presence of legally mandated election monitors and party representatives, and the heads of the local election committee being evasive, contradicting themselves and denying responsibility. The video from a Novi Sad suburb contained numerous citizens' statements testifying to vote buying by the local Democratic Party officials, especially targeting the impoverished Roma population. The figure cited was 2,000 Serbian dinars per vote. The voters who agreed to be a part of the scam were given a green-ink pen to distinguish such votes on the ballots and were required to bring it back after placing the vote in order to get the money. The interviewed Roma voters testified that food packages were also given to some families in exchange for votes.

On Wednesday, May 9, representatives of Dveri accessed the offices of the Republican Election Committee (in Serbian: Republička Izborna Komisija or RIK; this is the central state election body, no affiliation to any kind of ''Republican'' party or ideology) and attempted to inspect voting samples themselves, as was their right. According to the report on their website, the authorities first delayed the requested inspection by two hours, then gave them a small sample of votes and when the Dveri representatives began noticing irregularities, the RIK agents asked them to leave citing the closing of the RIK offices for the day, although it was well known that the RIK was bound not to close until the publication of the official election results! Still, the short inspection of a rather small sample of ballots found irregularities such as (1) the voting ballots from Kosovo were off-limits - the RIK agents stated they didn't have those ballots at the premises, which was preposterous because they HAD to have ALL the ballots at the premises; (2) while Dveri fared reasonably well in polling place where they had monitors, they received no votes in the polling locations where they had no monitors; (3) a number of votes for Dveri were invalidated due to an additional option being marked off with a pencil of a different color; (4) the municipal election committees, in which Dveri had no representative, made over about 90 percent of local election reports; (5) in the town of Leskovac, there was a minimum of 5 invalidated votes for Dveri at every polling locations; (6) in Leskovac, polling location no. 19, Dveri officially received 1 vote, while the officially stamped envelope contained 15 votes for Dveri that didn't make it into the official report... These were the initial findings, according to Dveri, drawn from a very limited sample they were able to inspect in the short period of time they were given. 

The Serbian Progressive Party joined the fraud cries mid-week and demanded that the election be nullified, citing that, despite the highest number of votes received of any party, 25 percent, they were defrauded of a large chunk of votes coming to them and that they had evidence for these accusations. The Progressives, led by former Radical Tomislav Nikolić, publicized reports and pictures of some 3,500 valid ballots found in a city container. As the biggest surprise, the Alliance of the Hungarians of Vojvodina, an ally of the Tadić block, also cried foul and cited examples of fraud. President Istvan Pasztor threatened to withdraw his party's support for Boris Tadić in the second round of the presidential election. Listing his suspicions, he wondered how it was possible that his party lost about a third of its vote in the 48 hours span between the preliminary count and the official count. Vojislav Koštunica of DSS, in the statement on his website, expressed his astonishment at the fact that ballots were found in the dumpster and his concern with the wayward democratic process in Serbia, calling on the regime to investigate and explain these allegations to the people, and quickly. Zoran Dragišić, president of the Movement of Workers and Farmers, stated on the party website that the election fraud this time around was worse than the one committed by Milošević in 1996.

The icing on the cake was the Thursday morning report that the regime banned Dveri's election fraud protest, set for the evening. Dveri leadership decided to hold a press conference in front of the RIK headquarters instead, but called on people to not join the protest, warning that the regime is prone to inserting salts into the crowd to try and provoke violence in the streets and blame the organizer, thus invalidating the legitimacy of the grievances and publicly spinning the entire endeavor away from its true nature.

It is hard to believe that all the allegations - which is many times over what I listed here - are untrue, especially for the fact they are coming from many sources, including some regime allies. I have relayed my sense of the corrupt electoral climate imposed by the Tadić regime and some initial reports of abuses in Failure of democracy, European style, but these new findings compound the problem to the degree in which questioning the democratic values and freedoms the West is promoting in the world by supporting regimes like the one Boris Tadić has imposed becomes a legitimate political expression and an obligation of every freedom-loving soul. This kind of ''democratic'' habit concerns not only Serbs, but the citizens of any country that values its freedom in governing itself. 

Boris Tadić and Ivica Dačić of the Socialists have reportedly already made a coalition deal. If this is true, it is quite contrary to Dačić's election night announcement that he is open to bargaining with anyone, meaning Tadić and Nikolić, and that his aim is the prime minister position. If this is true, it means Dačić failed the repeat test of patriotism, and his tough talk running up to the election was empty of substance.


Gray Falcon said...

The Tadic-Dacic governing coalition has repeatedly shown they hold absolutely nothing sacred but themselves, and power. Any law, any principle, any fact that gets in the way of that, they trample. Why wouldn't they steal an election?

Srbo said...

Puppet governments have no agenda but one: stay in power at all cost.

Anonymous said...

they paid even the TV stations to be quiet, but people are all up, up for only one thing, for the truth, DVERI is something different, they dont want them in parlament, becaouse DVERI want investigation since 1989 , who got rich in property out of politics, they want full fraud investigation for all . They are in Serbian 100% interest , economy and all other intereste which Serbia desparatly neeed it

Srbo said...

And Dveri are different because they are way more professional and less political in serving the public interest. They protested the night of the election, as soon as they figured out they were cheated. No gimmicks, just justice.

Meezer said...

Unfortunately, it doesn't matter who the people vote for. What matters is who counts the votes.

Daniel Covington said...

Election fraud respondents need to have a stable financial background to sustain their cause. It's like defending or claiming for tax fraud, one needs help from tax fraud solicitors.

Srbo said...

The problem is exacerbated when the party that does have the financial backing to sustain the cause wins the second round of the presidential election, then forms the cabinet in a coalition and forgets all about the fraud that they themselves cried about.

Andrei Alexandrescu said...

Believe me, this happens everywhere. In Romania, dead people still vote! Or, there are over 50 people living at the same address, only on paper, obviously. SufluNou