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Hope on the Balkans: Reports 1996
Report about Elections in the Federal Republic Yugoslavia

From: BPT_BG@ZAMIR-BG.ztn.apc.org (Balkan Peace Team)
Sender: BALKAN-PEACE-TEAM@BIONIC.zerberus.de (Foerderver.
        Balkan Peace Team)
Subject: Election report - Balkan Peace Team - Belgrade
Date: Mon, 11 Nov 1996 14:48:00 +0100

Election Report

Sunday the third of October 1996 was election day in FRY. There were Federal and Local elections in Serbia (including Vojvodina and Kosov@), National elections in Monte Negro and County elections in Belgrade.

About a 120 parties were running. There are quite a few small parties but they do not have an impact. They do take up a lot of media time, however, so the more serious contenders, like the Zajedno coalition got less access. The biggest coalition, called Left, is made of the Socialist Party of Serbia, with its leader, Slobodan Milosevic; Yugoslav United Left, with its leader, Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic and Nova Democratia with its leader Dusan Michaelovic. Also running was the Serbi- an Radical Party with its leader, Vojislav Seselj and the coalition Zajedno consisting of the Serbian Movement of Renew- al with Vuk Draskovic, the Democratic Party of Zoran Dindic, the Civic Alliance with Vesna Pesic at its top and the Demo- cratic Party of Serbia with Vojislav Kostunica. The Social Democtratic Union, led by Zarko Korac, only participated in the local elections. This is the party a lot of people among NGO's are supporting.

The slogans

Milosevic's party, the Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS) used: IDEMO DALJE - LET'S GO ON. It also means: LET'S GO FURTHER (than we are now). The double meaning is intended. This slogan was used in a children series a few years ago, so it has a nice nostalgic ring to it.
The double meaning also works with the next slogan:
Two other slogans:

The party of Milosevic's wife, Mira Markovic, had a very interesting campaign using young rap artists to sing their slogans. This way they got a lot of attention. They used; JUL JE COOL - JUL IS COOL

Nova Democratia used only one slogan, EVO RUKE - LET'S SHAKE HANDS

Seselj's party, the Radical Party, used a very simple slogan; VREME JE - IT IS TIME.

The Serbian Renewal Movement of the Zajedno coalition had the slogan: NAS JE VISE meaning WE ARE MORE.

All these slogans were used on TV. They were also used on political campaign posters and handouts.

The media

The news agency BETA asked the Belgrade Institute of Social Science conduct research about the way the different parties were portrayed and how long their ads and public appearences were covered etc. on the first channel of the state TV (RTS). The outcome was published in the weekly magazine VREME:

In the week before the last week of of the elections the RTS showed 71 promotional spots for the SPS-JUL-ND coalition, adding up to a total of 99.18 minutes. The Zajedno coalition received in the same week only 6 spots with a total of 3.40 minutes. In only one of these spots, a Zajedno leader (Vuk Draskovic) turned for 9 seconds directly to the viewers, whereas SPS-JUL-ND leaders were granted 61.58 minutes for addressing the viewers directly.
Seselj's party was only broadcast when criticising the Zajedno coalition.

Public Campaigning

Because Zajedno did not have a fair chance to make an impact via the media, they took to more public campaigning, holding rallies in a variety of towns throughout Serbia. They also linked up with the metal workers, who were on strike in Kragujevac, making use of the huge crowds that gathered during the strike.
The last public Zajedno rally held 2 days before the elections in Belgrade atracted a crowd of 20.000. The rally of Seselj's Serbian Radical Party, which took place nearby at the same time, drew a crowd of about 3.000 people.

When Zajedno rallies were mentioned on TV at all, reporters would be present well before the rally started, thus showing a few early supporters and presenting them as the total crowd.

Changing of electorial districts

In July 1996, the system of electoral districts was changed. Up to that point and in the last elections in 1992 there had been 9 districts, whereas all of Montenegro had been one district. In July new districts were laid out: 27 in Serbia and 9 in Montenegro to make them much smaller. In combination with the proportional election system, now a much bigger portion of votes in that district would be needed for a party to get a seat. Practically this works like a majority system to the advantage of big parties.

Additionally the new districts were laid out in a way to cut through ethnic regions and traditional majorities and to link them up as much as possible with Serb neighbourhoods, making sure of Serb majorities. For instance, in Vojvodina, traditionally a region with a large Hungarian population, which this year campaigned with a regional Vojvodina coalition, was divided into 3 districts. In a second run, votes of smaller parties which did not get a seat would be proprotionally given to the larger parties. This always favours the party with the most seats already, especially since the the SPS voters are more disciplined; they always go to vote.

Election day

Although not registered as official election monitors, BPT-B did go and observed the places where people voted. In Belgrade, one had to vote for Federal, Local and County elections. Voters had to fill in three papers with hardly any privacy. In many places voters filled in their choices at schooltables put together with carton made into a cross on top to create tiny booths.
People had to put their vote in a carton box sealed on top, with plastic tape around the bottom. Every voting place had a commission consisting of two members each for each of the political parties running candidates in that particular district. The members of this commission were sitting behind a table and when voters came to vote they crossed out their names from the voters lists. They were also supposed to explain the procedure to whoever had questions. Thus a voter could turn to a commission member of the party he or she favoured with a question.

In the town Pancevo, in the regions of Vojvodina, there were additional regional elections, so people had to cope with 4 voting lists. In one place a set of the four different lists was exhibited and explained. An activist reported that at one election poll, where loud "Turbo-folk" was playing (a type of folkloristic pop music that is usually linked up with a Serb nationalist attitude).
Activists predicted a large scale non-participation, at least for federal elections.

The outcome of the Federal elections

61% of those entitled to vote actually did so, as the daily NASA BORBA reported the next day.
Final results for the federal Parliament with a total of 138 seats were published on Friday, November 8:
The SPS-JUL-ND coalition got 64 seats, Zajedno got 22, the Radical Party 16. The Vojvodina coalition made 2 seats. The Alliance of Vojvodina Hungarians got 3 seats. The Sandzak list of South Serbia got 1 seat.

The Party of Democratic Action (SDA) got one seat. This is an Albanian party. Albanians in Kosov@ were not voting, but in South Serbia the Albanian population was voting, especially on a local level.

Results from Montenegrin parties: DPS (Democratic Party of Socialists got 20 seats, the NS (National Party) 8, and the SDP (Social Democratic Party) 1.

NASA BORBA reported that Zajedno's public relation officer found a lot of violations in the election process, from physical harassment of voters to obstructing the SPO members of the election commission from control of the ballots. Some days before the election SPO members went on a hunger strike for that reason.

Other irregularities were reported from some places: incorrect composition of the election commissions; SPS propagandamaterial being handed out right in front of the election polls; and loud music being played in the polls. In one case the mayor of a town gave a propaganda speech right at the polls. At a polling place in Vranjska Banja they did not have the SPS candidate's name on the list. Those votes were canceled.

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