Populist rhetoric in election campaign undermines trust in the rule of law
Sunday 6 May citizens of Serbia will vote in presidential, parliamentary, regional and local elections. Even though it is wider support for the need for European integration now than in 2008, it is obvious that the candidates struggle to prevent that this ambition alienates voters.
– The government had to make a wide range of concessions to achive candidacy status for EU; many of them contrary to the opinions of a rather large part of the public, says Mina Skouen, project manager in the Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – However, these concessions must not be confused with their implementation. The commitment to protect vulnerable groups against human rights violations, particularly the ones of Roma and Sexual and Gender minorities, still seems to be mostly on a declarative level, which calls for serious concern.
– Prejudices against ethnic, religious and other minorities is widespread in Serbia, as is the suspicion towards the International Criminal Tribunal in Hague and the risk of loosing Kosovo, says Ole B Lilleås, Senior Adviser of Norwegian Helsinki Committee. – A conservative social climate reinforced by politicians feed these sentiments. Politicians should be careful to send out dodgy messages indicating a belief that Serbia can become a member of the European Union without consistently embracing core democratic values.
Urgent problems await the next government. Unemployment stands at 24% and public debt is growing. People face numerous challenges with corruption and bureaucracy. Tension in Sandzak and the Presevo valley with their predominantly Bosniak and Albanian populations awaits long term political solutions, and the Kosovo question might be currently stalled, but it is not solved.
Most importantly, the new government has to demonstrate real commitment to implementation of democratic principles, human rights and rule of law. This would offer Serbia the reforms it truly needs and make it a better state towards all its citizens and a better neighbor in the region.
Ole B Lilleås and Mina Skouen are in Serbia and will be observing the pre-election campaign and elections from Belgrade and Sandzak on behalf of Norwegian Helsinki Committee.
Ole B Lilleås, Senior Adviser, Norwegian Helsinki Committee +47 415 06 236
Mina Skouen, Project Manager, Norwegian Helsinki Committee +47 908 25 076