Voters confirm new Constitution

BELGRADE, KOSOVSKA MITROVICA -- According to preliminary results of the referendum, the new Serbian Constitution has been confirmed.

(FoNet)
(FoNet)

The Republic Election Commission stated that 53.66 percent of voters participated in the referendum and that 51.46 percent voted in support of the Constitution.

According to CESID’s statistics, the voter turnout reached 53.3 percent and 51.4 percent voted for the confirmation of the Constitution.

The best turnout was recorded in Kosovo, where 90.1 percent of registered voters participated in the referendum. The worst turnout was recorded in Vojvodina; 45.9 percent. In Belgrade 53.1 percent of registered voters participated and 56.1 percent participated in Central Serbia.

Serbian Parliamentary Speaker Predrag Marković said that he will schedule a parliamentary meeting for November 5, at which the Constitution will be confirmed by state officials.

Last night, several hundred Serbs gathered on the northern side of the bridge in Kosovska Mitrovica to celebrate the new Constitution. Those who celebrated were carrying Serbian flags, honking car horns and chanting, among other things, “Kosovo is Serbia,” “Ratko Mladić” and “We won’t give up our country.”

What foreign news said

Leading international news agencies stated that the majority of Serbian citizens showed support for the first Constitution after the reign of Slobodan Milošević, and that Serbia has maintained the sovereignty of Kosovo by confirming the new Constitution.

Reuters stated that Serbian voters support the first Constitution of the post-Milošević era.

The Associated Press reported that a slight majority supported the new Constitution, confirming Serbia’s rights in Kosovo.

The referendum, which AFP reminds was specially organized over two days, had a last minute surge of voters who showed up to the polls to support the constitution after non-stop calls from government officials to participate.

AFP adds that Serbian Prime Minister Vojislav Koštunica warned of negative consequences if the referendum fails, and Serbian President Boris Tadić joined the Prime Minister in urging citizens to vote.

International news agencies mentioned the fact that Radio Television Serbia played messages all weekend long, urging viewers to go out and vote. Agencies also noted the opposition of smaller parties, namely the Liberal Democratic Party, to the referendum. The LDP claims that there was misconduct in the last hours of the voting which was needed to gain a majority in order for the referendum to pass.

No surprises in Kosovo

Media reports state that there were no surprises this weekend in Kosovo, and that the Serbian and Albanian citizens did what they announced that they would do. The Serbian community participated in great number while the Albanians in the region boycotted the vote.

Even though Kosovo was stressed as one of the most important reasons for adopting the new Constitution, the results of the referendum in the Serbian communities will not have much effect on the situation in general.

Kosovo Serb leader Oliver Ivanović said that the celebration in Kosovska Mitrovica last night was expected, but that it is a different story in Serbia.

“In Serbia people are more mature politically and look at the Constitution as a question that is important, but not all-important.” Ivanović said.

Pajtić thanks Vojvodina supporters

President of the Vojvodina Executive Council and the regional branch of the Democratic Party, Bojan Pajtić, thanked the citizens of Vojvodina who, regardless of various misinformation and a strong boycotting campaign, supported the new Constitution, which enables Vojvodina’s wallet to be returned to Vojvodina’s pocket.

“The new Constitution ends a decade-long practice of having Vojvodina’s money go to different parts of the country because of taxation obligations. The Constitution guarantees 30 percent of the money from the state’s budget to be returned to Vojvodina, through the regional and local budgets and through pensions, wages for state workers and social programs. Until yesterday we could have only dreamed of this.” Pajtić said.

On the other side, Vojvodina Parliamentary Speaker Bojan Kostreš accused the parties that supported the Constitution that they were imposing the legal act on the citizens. Kostreš also mentioned the strange finale of the voting and the fact that the voter turnout was significantly higher in the final hours of voting.

Criticism and irregularities

The most vociferous criticism of the constitutional referendum came from the Liberal Democrats’ leader Čedomir Jovanović. His party, LDP, claims that the referendum failed since only 49.7 percent of voters took part, at the same time pointing to “organized irregularities and planned abuse”

The party showed two videos recorded at the Vračar and Stari Grad polling stations, where voters were apparently allowed to cast ballots without any identification. Jovanović said that it was up to the police to prove the authenticity of the recordings provided by his party.

”I do not wish to be the one to prove the authenticity of the footage, I believe that the Serbian citizens were the witnesses of everything that took place in the past two days. This is just one instance that illustrates thousands of irregularities that happened from 3 p.m. to 8 p.m., when it became clear the referendum would fail. We have filed thousands of complaints”, Jovanović says.

CeSID communicated that the organization’s observers recorded irregularities at eight out of the 600 polling stations they monitored, including instances of citizens who voted without any personal ID, persons who voted on behalf of their entire families, along with a dozen minor irregularities.

“Electoral board members filled ballot boxes”

Party for Sandžak (SZS) says the referendum in Novi Pazar and Sjenica was not regular and that its observers noted a number of irregularities.

”We also have recordings testifying to the low turnout and we are making them available to the public. The ballot boxes were filled by the members of the electoral boards”, SZS vice president Azem Hajdarević says.

CeSID said that the most serious irregularities occurred precisely in Novi Pazar.

A shadow with a huge influence

NIN weekly journalist Dragan Bujošević told B92 that he is not sure Serbia has solved any of its problems by accepting a new constitution.

”Politicians should be worried by the fact under 50 percent of voters turned out in Vojvodina, and another problem is that none of the Albanians in Preševo and Medveđa decided to vote”, Bujošević says.

”It seems that this time the voters did not take the Kosovo bait, and it seems that their trust in politicians is decreasing, and that is bound to reflect in the future elections and we will see evidence relatively soon”, he says.

“Obviously there are doubts that a strange hand cast votes in the last moments of the referendum, and then there’s the information about the four percent turnout each hour, something previously unrecorded. There are many irregularities, and if they are not proved, then those who claim this business is as pure as the driven snow will ultimately be right. There is a shadow of a doubt, and I think it will influence the outcome of the next election”, Bujošević says.

“The elections will most likely be held in December, at least according to the parties’ agreement, but since the referendum was in a way a referendum on Koštunica’s cabinet, the result is putting wind in his sails. It has to be handed to him, Koštunica did this in style, and the fact that Tomislav Nikolić and Boris Tadić let him is their problem”, he says.

“The polls show that citizens identify the new constitution with the Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS), so they are set to benefit the most from the results, but low Vojvodina turnout will also benefit some small parties, mostly those who campaigned against the constitution”, Bujošević says.