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Insajder investigates: In the next elections even the dead will “vote”

In the upcoming presidential elections in Serbia even the dead will “vote” due to inaccuracies in the Central Voters Register, which opens the possibility of manipulating the final results of the elections, the Insajder.net investigation shows.

Srđan Ilić: Izbori, ilustracije
Photo: Srđan Ilić / Izbori, ilustracije

Despite the claim of the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government that the voters register is updated daily, Insajder.net’s investigation have shown that even 120-year-old people are registered as voters, while living people with valid IDs are not.

Having 120-year-old voters in the register would not be odd if the oldest person in Serbia, a 107-year-old, had not died last year. However, according to the Serbian Central Voters Register, even a 127-year-old will have the right to cast a ballot in the presidential elections on 2nd April 2017. This person, born in 1889, will “vote” at the polling station 62 in New Belgrade.

According to data obtained by Insajder.net, in the Central Voters Register, there are at least 23 more persons in Belgrade who were born in the nineteenth century. The highest number of Belgrade voters born in the nineteenth century is in the municipalities of New Belgrade and Vozdovac. It is unknown how many of such voters are registered across Serbia.

The fact that the personal data of these people are still in the register does not mean that they will be misused. However, the fact that it is still unclear who has the right to vote in Serbia, along with the fact that the lists have not been updated, opens up the possibility for various abuses.

Eligible to vote not in the register

The Republic Electoral Committee returned several hundreds of signatures for support of the candidacy of Sasa Radulovic and Aleksandar Popovic, despite the fact that the signatures were checked by the public notaries who confirmed their identity.

OSCE/ODIHR expressed concerns about the accuracy of the voters lists in the report from 7th March regarding the Serbian presidential elections. 
“Authorities informed the OSCE/ODIHR NAM of intentions to undertake measures to eliminate duplicate registrations and raise trust in the accuracy of the register,” stated the report. OSCE/ODIHR also stated that this organization will not have their observers at the polls during the Serbian presidential elections, since there was not enough time to recruit members

In order to get the candidacy approved for the presidential elections, each candidate must obtain at least 10,000 valid signatures from the citizens, which are verified by the public notary. That means that several hundreds of supporters are not registered in the Central Voters Register. Unlike in other countries, it is up to local governments in Serbia to update the voters register.

Aleksandar Popovic, the presidential candidate of the Democratic Party of Serbia, told Insajder.net that about 2,5 per cent of his supporters were not registered in the Central Voters Register. He claims it is an indication the registry is not in proper order.

“Around 250 signatures were rejected by the REC because they are not in the register, despite being checked by the public notaries who confirmed their identities. I think we have a serious problem with the Central Register,” said Popovic. He added that the Ministry of Public Administration and Local Self-Government should rigorously address this issue.

The movement “Enough is Enough” told Insajder.net that the REC refused 106 statements of support to their presidential candidate, because those citizens were not listed in the CVR.

"At the last year's parliamentary elections, we had deceased voters and voters who were registered at multiple addresses, which raised the question of credibility and opened the possibility for misusing the voters register. The Ministry in charge is obviously doing nothing to fix this problem. If they operated in accordance with the law, we would not be in this situation,” said the movement’s representatives.

The Ministry: We update the register daily

In the parliamentary elections held in April 2016, even people born in the 19th century were registered as voters. Insajder.net’s journalists asked the Ministry of Public Administration whether the register was updated for the upcoming presidential elections, and whether anyone is held accountable for oversights in the last year’s elections.

In a written statement, the Ministry replied that the Central Voters Register is regularly updated since it was introduced in 2012. The Ministry added that it is the legal obligation of the local governments to update the register.

“Through administrative inspection, The Ministry regularly checks all units of local government. If irregularities are identified, the inspection orders the local governments to remove them. Therefore, there was no need so far to sanction those held responsible,” it said.
However, given the evidence that the registers were not updated, it is obvious that the local governments failed to adequately act on irregularities.
At the same time, despite the proven irregularities and based on the Ministry’s reply, it is clear that no one was held accountable for oversights in local governments.

Mina Milanovic