After CINS published its story about the Serbian Progressive Party’s (SNS) call center, raising suspicions of vote buying, the Higher Public Prosecutor’s Office in Belgrade said it was waiting on electoral commissions to determine irregularities. Deputy member of the City Electoral Commission on behalf of the Serbia Against Violence electoral list Vladica Ilić says that he doesn’t really understand what the commissions should do:
“The Republic Electoral Commission (RIK) and City Electoral Commission (GIK) are bodies that make sure the elections are carried out legally. This is something that involves pointing out abuse during the election process, but GIK does not have the authority to establish these types of facts and to take action in relation to what you have uncovered.”
According to him, once we scratch the surface, we can already see serious suspicions that these are potential criminal offences, but also other violations of regulations related to cash-in-hand payments to people.
“Under normal circumstances and in a country where the prosecutor’s office actually does its job, it would have already checked what is underneath the surface instead of waiting for us to do it all.”
Ilić, who is a lawyer at the Belgrade Center for Human Rights, adds that there is also the question of who all the people who work at those call centers are – they could people from some institutions, public or otherwise, who might be forced to work there, who spend their working time there while being paid for something else entirely with the money of Serbia’s citizens.
“The prosecution should look into all that. I think it’s a classic case of passing the buck from them to electoral bodies, which simply have neither the capacity nor the authority to determine such facts,” Ilić points out.
He believes that in addition to the prosecution, the Tax Inspectorate should also get involved:
“They pay people cash-in-hand supposedly for some services that entail checking the voting mood of citizens – it’s a typical job for the Tax Inspectorate. As far as I know, cash-in-hand payments for that kind of thing are illegal in Serbia.”
As a reminder, CINS infiltrated the Serbian Progressive Party’s call center, from which more than 100 people call citizens every day and ask them if they will vote for that party in the upcoming elections. The investigation we subsequently published reveals that a well-organized group is behind it all, that daily wages are paid cash-in-hand, raising suspicions of using “black money”, and that a condition for the job is voting for SNS in the upcoming elections on 17 December.