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MONITORING THE MEDIA DURING
ELECTION CAMPAIGN IN KOSOVO
 
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Democracy in Action activities

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13 June 2017

The election process was mature and peaceful, accompanied by some irregularities and shortcomings in voter education and information

DiA considers that the elections of 11 June 2017 were peaceful and not affected by severe and violent breaches that would undermine public trust in the electoral process. The exception was the electoral campaign period in Serb-majority municipalities, where the situation during the campaign was tense and voters felt frightened. Also, in these municipalities, Election Day has been closely monitored by increased security forces.

There were no serious incidents during the Election Day, nevertheless, our observers noted some irregularities during the voting, such as: i) Violating confidentiality of voting expressed through family voting, the same person assisted more than one time, as well as voting outside the voting booth. ii) The suspicion of creating economic dependence of a voter has been expressed through photographing of the ballot paper; Abuse of the voting right that has been expressed through efforts to vote more than once; iv) The potential pressure on voters that can be interpreted by the presence of unauthorized persons in polling centres or polling stations, the presence was quite high in the morning. v) Deprivation of the right to vote for persons with disabilities due to the lack of adequate infrastructure for access at all polling stations

The inaccuracy of the voters list remains a negative element in all electoral processes in Kosovo, including the 11 June 2017 elections. Despite some institutional efforts to remove the deceased persons from the election list, still names of deceased persons can be found on the list.

Voters from abroad have faced difficulties in applying for registration to vote by mail. The information campaign for voters abroad commenced too late, and insufficient guidance has been provided. The CEC was not prepared to handle the high traffic of incoming applications, causing server failures and therefore preventing voters from exercising their voting rights. Electoral reform should address this problem by eliminating unnecessary barriers and by simplifying procedures.

The high number of invalid ballots is worrisome, particularly considering the fact that there is an increasing trend of such ballots, despite the fact that the electoral system has remained the same. The CEC should, as soon as possible, investigate and analyze the causes that have led to the increase in the number invalid ballots through the opening of ballot boxes. Necessary measures should be undertaken immediately in order to address the identified problems more seriously. Above all, the CEC needs to make more efforts to educate and inform voters on the way of voting, in order to reduce the number of invalid votes.

The new phenomenon noted in these elections was the accreditation of a non-governmental organization which is not an active taxpayer and has no experience in election observation. The large number of accredited observers from this organization has raised doubts about their mission and links to certain political entities.

Funding sources and financial transparency of political remains a problematic issue and therefore a greater oversight of their finances shall take place, especially with regards to observation of constraints imposed by the CEC for this election campaign.

DiA appreciates the activity and efforts of many commissioners who have performed their duties, taking into account the short period of preparations. However, the CEC did not provide adequate training for commissioners who in some cases were not well informed with the procedures of voting, counting and filling out the Results Reconciliation Form. The CEC has been transparent at the meetings held. Nevertheless, observers had no access to the materials reviewed, and the decisions were not published on time.
The Election Complaints and Appeals Panel (ECAP) acted professionally and impartially in dealing with complaints, by adhering to the time limits.

The election campaign period has been intensified with candidates activities, whereby various irregularities have been observed: i) The use of children in the electoral campaign, in certain cases in an organized way; ii) use of official vehicles for political party purposes and presence of civil servants; iii) Placement of promotional material of candidates and political entities in traffic signs, electric poles, public spaces not intended for such purposes; iv) The language used during the campaign in certain cases contained elements of hate speech; v) the presence of women in campaign activities of political entities has been rather low, and women candidates had no equal opportunities with men to elaborate their views. vi) the access of persons with disabilities is not guaranteed in all electoral gatherings.

In Serb majority municipalities, the situation during the election campaign period was tense, and voters were often felt frightened and under pressure to vote for a particular political party.
The presence of the media in the electoral rallies was satisfactory and the same were not impeded from reporting freely. Failure to participate in television debates of representatives from all political entities has deprived citizens from the right to see competing ideas and disclosure of governance programs. The efforts of some political entities to interfere in media editorial policies are unacceptable.