Referendum Initiative Refuses to Inspect Rejected Signatures

By 27 November 2018

ZAGREB, November 27, 2018 - The Truth about the Istanbul Convention referendum initiative and civil society organisation (CSO) was expected on Monday to inspect signatures collected for a referendum initiative to revoke the convention's ratification in parliament, but it refused to do so claiming that only a partial check of the signatures could be possible under the conditions they were offered.

A representative of the CSO, Kristina Pavlović, said that they had been given the opportunity to check the signatures in the APIS agency that conducted the initial check of the signatures' authenticity and declared 44,974 as invalid, only one month after the results were released by the Public Administration Ministry.

Pavlović said that it was only at a three-hour meeting at APIS that the they were informed of the conditions under which they could check the invalid signatures, namely they were not allowed to use biro pens to make notes nor to photocopy material which, she said, was the only way for the organisation to compare it with its own data to see whether anything had been added to the petition lists after they were handed over to the parliament.

She said this was important since in the few months that elapsed from when the boxes containing the petition lists were transferred from the parliament to the APIS premises, a discrepancy occurred in the number of petition lists in several boxes.

Pavlović said they were also informed that they could not check the signatures that were assessed to be illegible, adding that APIS' conditions for the inspection did not enable a proper check.

She concluded that it was obvious that the government was not interested in proper transparency. "The government is acting like a second-hand car dealer that only shows the exterior of the car and doesn't want to show the interior or the motor or its service booklet," Pavlović said.

The CSO has called on the parliament to entrust the State Electoral Commission to conduct an independent check of the signatures and allow its observers to be present during the check.

According to the ministry's data, the Truth about the Istanbul Convention civil initiative submitted 390,916 signatures for its referendum petition, of which 345,942 were valid and 44,974 invalid. A total of 374,740 signatures are required to call a referendum.

Pavlović said that the CSO had asked the ministry, but without receiving any reply, to specify how many of 33,500 signatures, which is the majority of the allegedly invalid signatures, were assessed to be illegible and how many were amended. She explained that the same handwriting on petition lists can be attributed to volunteers entering the name and surname of signatories to facilitate the signature collection procedure because of the huge interest of citizens.

For more on referendum initiatives in Croatia, click here.