Questionable electoral processes cast doubt on the legitimacy of the recent parliamentary elections in Serbia, says Ivan Ninić, member of the Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) as a representative of the Dosta je Bilo – Saša Radulović movement.
In August 2015, Ninić was ambushed and severely beaten by two masked assailants in front of his building. The attack came at a point when Ninić’s Centre for Rule of Law was investigating corruption of high-ranking officials. Despite promises by the Minister of Police Nebojša Stefanović and Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić that the attackers will be caught and punished, the investigation has not seen any progress so far.
The Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) was unable to announce the results of the Serbian parliamentary elections for four days. Why? Because on April 24, it was Prime Minister Aleksandar Vučić who personally ‘counted’ the ballots. However, he failed to match his counting results and his wish to place the Dveri-DSS coalition below the five percent threshold with the number of ballots in sacks and the minutes of local electoral boards. This is the key reason why on Wednesday, May 4, voting was repeated at 15 polling stations.
Post-electoral collapse in Serbia unfolded the moment our “multi-practice” prime minister Vučić “processed” 77 percent of the electoral body, even before the RIK ever did. Vučić reliably (as always) announced that three political options definitely did not make the threshold (DJB, SDS-LSV-LDP, Dveri-DSS), as if that was simply a matter of fact. According to the Prime Minister, these were “the most peaceful elections with least number of irregularities in the past 25 years”.
Vučić’s ingenious media manipulation ability was institutionally supported by none other than his party official and President of RIK, Dejan Djurdjević. On the same evening, during the media conference that was held half an hour after midnight, Djurdjević announced the first preliminary results based on the processed sample of 27.15 percent of the electoral body. Miraculously, Djurdjević’s “counting” had the same preliminary results as Vučić’s – DJB, SDS-LSV-LDP and Dveri-DSS were below the threshold.
As the percentage of processed ballots grew from hour to hour, RIK’s results showed that all three of these political options had passed the threshold and would have seats in the National Parliament. Forty-eight hours after voting stations were closed, RIK had processed results from 98.04 percent of polling stations.
Unlike the DJB political movement, which was then above six percent, the remaining two political options – SDS-LSV-LDP (5.04 percent) and Dveri-DSS (5 percent) – were “treading” the thin threshold line. At that particular moment (April 26) results from 164 polling stations (1.95 percent) had yet to be processed. It was clear that each of those non-processed polling stations and each ballot could mark a turning point, since the Dveri-DSS coalition were just 170 votes above the threshold.
There were two ways this controversial 1.96 percent or 164 voting stations could “manually” place the Dveri-DSS coalition below the threshold in four days. Of course, Vučić had complete knowledge and total control over both of them.
The first way was to annul elections at a certain number of voting stations. This was done in quite an unusual “cowboy” way. It was enough for RIK to schedule and perform voting on a few falsified and backdated complaints of “worried” voters. This happened despite the fact that Djurdjević had previously made a public announcement that only two complaints had been received within the legally set deadline. A day after this public statement, it turned out that 60 complaints had been received two days earlier by RIK. All complaints had been filed by “concerned citizens”.
These citizens were so “concerned” that similar or identical signatures were identified as complaints originating from different voting stations. Besides the name and address of voters who signed these complaints being different, the only other difference was the font of the letters they used to type them.
One “Milica from Belgrade” and one “Svetozar from Niš” brilliantly “discovered” irregularities at multiple polling stations. What is unclear, however, is how they managed to do this, since neither of them was a member of the electoral board at these polling stations. Another thing that is yet to be clarified is the way in which “carrier-pigeons” managed to get a RIK stamp of receipt confirmation on them, making them credible and on-time.
Instead of the expected repetition of the voting process at two voting stations (Vranje and Jagodina), in the end, a total of 15 voting station results were annulled, totalling 19,631 eligible voters. This annulment proceeded “smoothly”, since the Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) provided the majority of votes for each and every one of the decisions made by RIK.
The second way to place the ‘Dveri-DSS’ coalition below the threshold was for RIK to verify or annul a certain number of problematic results from some polling stations. How? The problem ensued after statisticians working at the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia established that it is impossible to feed the balloting software with results from some 164 voting stations, as the electoral board’s minutes were a mess.
In some of them, the number of ballots did not match; in others, the number of people who voted and the number of used ballots did not match; and in others still, there were more ballots in the ballot box than there should have been. In some cases, the minutes pertaining to results at certain voting stations did not even exist. Statisticians labelled these errors as either “light” or “heavy”. Members of RIK decided on either verification or annulment of these errors by voting. These decisions were, in fact, made by outvoting. Both of these processes are susceptible to abuse and personal discretion. Political power is in the hands of those who have a majority in RIK, and this is currently SNS together with its satellite partners.
The majority of RIK members took the position that even at those voting stations where minutes of the electoral board that counted the ballots were missing, voting should be verified based solely on the sack that contained ballots. Yet the contents of these sacks could have been changed numerous times over the previous four days. RIK decided to overtake jurisdiction of the electoral boards, which was not the case in previous years. The ballots from the voting stations that should have been annulled were counted. The same was done with ballots from voting stations with minutes without signatures of electoral board members.
This circus of the “gradual” counting of ballots lasted for full four days. Of a total of 164 problematic voting stations, ballots from 11 of them were annulled, ballots from 138 of them were verified, and the decision about the repetition of the voting process was made for 15 of them. The end result of Vučić’s mathematical acrobatics was that the Dveri-DSS coalition was left below the threshold by a single vote. This is an unbelievable coincidence.
Vučić is formally not a member of RIK, but he knew what was happening at RIK from Sunday, April 24, up until Thursday, April 28. The general manager of the Statistical Office of the Republic of Serbia, Miladin Kovačević, is a Serbian government official. RIK President Djurdjević is a high official in the SNS and general manager of the Republic Department for Legislation. A day after elections, while voting results were still being “cooked” at RIK, the Presidium of SNS had a session in their own offices, and Djurdjević attended this meeting.
During RIK sessions, the commission’s president was continuously seen nervously biting at the white pen with a clearly marked SNS logo.
The farce of vote counting is nearing the finish line, and what is clear to everyone is that the will of the people is not of great interest to Vučić. He is counting ballots in sacks the way it suits him and is retailoring election results in a way that will provide the future People’s Parliament the structure that pleases him.
If we do not protest the retailoring of the will of the people now – our votes will be rigged at the next elections too. Please, think about this now, before it’s too late.
For more on alleged electoral fraud in Serbia: