The election of representatives to the Croatian Parliament in the Republic of Croatia took place on December 4, 2011. Croatian citizens were able to vote in country and abroad (elections abroad took place on December 3 and 4). GONG started observing the election process a few months before the Election Day, by monitoring the work of institutions responsible for administering the election, i.e. State Election Commission (SEC), Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI).
GONG started observing the election process a few months before the Election Day, by monitoring the work of institutions responsible for administering the election, i.e. State Election Commission (SEC), Ministry of Public Administration (MPA) and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and European Integration (MFAEI). GONG was attending meetings with respective institutions and SEC’s regular daily sessions, following press releases, responses to various requests and decisions published on web sites. In addition, GONG was following SEC’s preparations for monitoring financing of the election campaign based on the new Law on Political Activity and Election Campaign Financing. The SEC faced short deadlines and the large scope of work. The SEC was open to most GONG’s questions and requests concerning the election process and insight into the election material and adopted several GONG recommendations for improving the information flow towards the public. GONG also conducted meetings with MFAEI and Office for Administration of City Zagreb regarding the process of early voter’s registration and preparations for the Election Day. Likewise, GONG tried to organize a meeting with MPA concerning the information on how were the voters’ lists compiled, since the problem of fake permanent addresses and thus sift data in the voters’ lists remained, however the Ministry did not respond.
The election process was more transparent than in the previous years as most institutions were more open and more active in informing voters, especially the SEC and MFAEI. The MPA did not satisfy the required and expected level of competence and preparedness for administering the elections, especially in terms of informing the citizens.
Considering the law newly regulated campaign spending, GONG in cooperation with Transparency International Croatia (TIH) monitored the transparency of the election campaign funding. Political parties, candidates and independent lists of candidates could finance their campaign activities with their own financial resources and donations by opening a special bank account. They were obliged to publish donations and expenditure reports 7 days prior to the Election Day and 15 days after the announcement of the final results. GONG and TIH issued parallel reports, which included estimates of campaign spending for advertising based on recording the quantity and duration of TV and radio videos on all national and several local TV and radio stations and advertising on the leading national Internet portals, print media and outdoor advertising activities across Croatia. Some differences between the official reports and monitored reports were found, as several largest parties did not fully disclose the non-commercial discounts received from the media. In addition, some did not disclose expenditure for campaign spending prior to the official start of the electoral campaign, although it was visible that some campaign activities were taking place. GONG welcomed the new campaign finance regulations, however, continues to emphasize how the lack of transparency with commercial discounts and the limited provisions for timely and effective sanctions remain unaddressed.
|Regarding observing the Election Day, GONG organized the project “LOG IN Elections 2011” which included some 500 observers (60 observers in mobile teams and 443 observers on polling stations throughout Croatia), who had undergone special trainings and were coordinated by four GONG’s regional coordinators (each one responsible for one region). Same as the previous five national elections, GONG performed PVT (parallel vote tabulation) methodology of collecting the official results of voting at polling stations. This is a reliable tool for verifying the official election results and the observation of electoral fraud. The procedure is performed in parallel with the electoral boards and election commissions while the data obtained by collecting votes from individual polling stations are then converted into seats in the parliament.|
The data processing included statistical methods for screening results, error estimation, assessment of stabilization data and sample selection of polling stations. In addition, information gathering had been expanded to qualitative observation of the process because the entire Election Day was monitored using the SMS alert system (internationally recognized so called “quick count” methodology) and observers were answering a special set of questions during the Election Day.
As in previous years, GONG contributed to the civic education by preparing and published a series of guides for citizens about the electoral process and the exercise of their voting rights: General Guide to Parliamentary Elections 2011, Guide to Financing of Campaigns, Guidelines for Candidature and a Guide Through Voters List and Voting Outside the Place of Residence. In addition, during the whole election period as well as on the Election Day, GONG’s legal advisers, interns and volunteers were answering to different citizens questions about the elections via e-mail, telephone, Facebook, etc. In total, over a 1000 inquiries were answered.
GONG’s findings about the Election Day process are the following: election were conducted in the atmosphere of democracy and tolerance at the majority of polling stations with small number of irregularities, in particular problems in relation to the exercise of voting rights of national minorities and the incorrect data entered into the voters’ lists. A part of the electorate was again deprived of their right to vote, especially the voters in hospitals, nursery homes and other institutions (as there were no means of voting available for such voters). Polling commissions showed different levels of education and professionalism. GONG processed some 20 critical situations reported by its observers during the Election Day and the citizens reported over 200 cases of electoral irregularities.
Finally, GONG issued a detailed report on its activities and findings for 2011 Parliamentary Elections in Croatia, including numerous and concrete recommendations for enhancing the electoral legal framework and process of voting.
Read full report here.