International monitor notes some irregularities during Serbia’s rerun of municipal election

BELGRADE, Serbia (AP) — Serbia’s rerun of a troubled municipal election was marked by misuse of public resources and ruling party dominance but overall was well-run, an international observer said Monday.

The coalition led by the nationalist Serbian Progressive Party of President Aleksandar Vucic won convincingly over the weekend against splintered opposition groups in the rerun election in the capital, Belgrade, and in the regularly scheduled vote in other municipalities, according to official results.

The original election in Belgrade in December triggered political tensions and accusations that Vucic’s party rigged the vote. Weeks of protests followed in the Balkan nation. Fresh parliamentary elections were not held.

The new report by an office of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe said its observers noted “numerous problems with the secrecy of the vote as well as several instances of serious irregularities including vote buying, and isolated cases of violence.”

The report added that although fundamental freedoms were respected, “concerns about widespread pressure on public sector employees and the misuse of public resources raised questions about the opportunity for voters to make their choice freely.”

For more than a decade, Vucic and his party have controlled all levels of power in Serbia and went into Sunday’s election as clear favorites. Opposition groups split over whether to take part in the election, which weakened their chances of success.

Vucic is formally seeking to have Serbia join the European Union but has drifted away from pro-EU democracy values while nurturing close ties with Russia and China. The populists have presented themselves as the only political force capable of running Serbia at a time of global turmoil.

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