Matte Mecacci, deputato radicale eletto nel Pd, è il presidente del Comitato Democrazia, Diritti umani e Questioni umanitarie dell'Assemblea parlamentare dell'Osce ed è il coordinatore della missione di osservazione dell'Osce in Serbia per le elezioni del 6 maggio.
A Decade of Democratic Progress
By Matteo Mecacci
Where was Serbia just a decade ago?
As a young man growing up on the other side of the Adriatic, I remember those vivid images of war in Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina. I recall refugees fleeing Kosovo and buildings destroyed in the center of Belgrade.
The scars of war are still very much present in today’s Belgrade. But Serbia has profoundly changed.
In 2000, the revolution which toppled Slobodan Milošević fueled the hope that – much like the uprising that tore down the Iron Curtain in 1989 and before the Color Revolutions in the former Soviet Union – Serbia was fully embracing its democratic aspirations.
Yet, general distrust in politics led to the annulment of three consecutive presidential elections, and in 2003, organized crime threatened the rule of law as assassins took the life of Prime Minister Zoran Ðinđic.
On 6 May, Serbians will be able to choose among twelve presidential candidates and eighteen parliamentary lists. The campaign’s wide political offer has driven the people’s interest. A recent report shows that more than two million citizens – almost 30 per cent of the population – are now members of a political party.
This goes to show that Serbians have regained trust in theirinstitutions and are taking new ownership of their democratic process. They know that political activism is an agent of change. Today, citizens across Serbia are aware that their voice is being heard through the ballot they cast.
Based on previous recommendations made by the OSCE, reforms introduced to the electoral framework provide an improved basis for democracy.
Since 2008, the elimination of blank resignations (letters once used to assure a member’s party loyalty) and the clarification of certain provisions on campaign finance have increased the transparency and accountability of the electoral process. The creation of a single, unified, and electronic register of voters allows easier access to the voting booth for citizens in Serbia and abroad.
Having observed elections on five occasions since 1997, the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly has been closely monitoringSerbia’s progress.
Over the past decade, we have witnessed Serbia embracingdemocracy, the rule of law, and European integration. In 2006, Montenegro and Serbia peacefully parted ways, and,despite continued tensions in Kosovo, Belgrade has clearly moved away from military engagement.
As a sign of its progress, Belgrade hosted our Annual Session last year, marking the first time our high-level meeting has occurred in South East Europe. As we return this year as election observers, we will be concerned with the election process not its result.
On 6 May, I will lead a team of parliamentarians from 15 OSCE countries to assess Serbia's democratic commitments that stem from the 1990 Copenhagen Document. Covering all aspects of a free society, ranging from equal opportunity toseek public office, to a fair media and a campaign environment that allows voters to make an informed choice, we will above all observe whether the election reflects the genuine will of the people.
Nonetheless, democratic elections require that the voice of every individual be heard. To avoid the disenfranchisement of certain Serbian citizens, the OSCE has offered its assistance tofacilitate the process of organizing elections in Kosovo. I welcome the agreement reached with Belgrade few days ago after lengthy negotiations, and I hope that it will be implemented in good faith and all its parts. Furthermore, I hope that no provocations will take place in Kosovo to spoil an electoral process aimed at ensuring the right to vote of every citizen.
Four years ago, we found that Serbia’s elections had overall been held in line with OSCE commitments. Although challenges linger, we expect to witness a test of maturity on 6 May.
Through these elections, Serbia can set a positive example of political stability, not only for the Balkans, but also for the rest of the OSCE region.
A decade ago, few would have deemed that possible.