A report on the attitudes and relation of political parties and coalitions towards the LGBT population in the campaign for national elections 2014

GSA launched and realised a campaign in this election cycle for parliamentary elections, called “Your Vote, Your Tomorrow“, which aimed to have political parties and groups participating in the election speak out on the issues related to the human rights of LGBT people, as well as to include these issues and specific solutions for reducing violence, discrimination and homophobia into their pre-election platforms. Furthermore, the campaign aimed to invite LGBT people and their parents, relatives, friends and other citizens, to go out and vote for those political options which, among other things, advocate for improving the status of the LGBT population, for equality and for the respect of human and minority rights.

Through this campaign, GSA wanted, among other things, to expand the political agenda when it comes to human rights of LGBT people so that it would include not only the politicians’ statements about the Pride parade, and to more realistically and accurately display the views of political parties and coalitions in the election campaign, starting from what they did in the period from the 2012 national elections up to this campaign.

That is why, based on announced criteria and various categories in which the attitudes of political parties and coalitions were assessed, GSA analyzed their attitudes towards the LGBT issue in the election campaign, starting, first of all, from the fact that simple rhetorical support of the LGBT community was not enough, but that after what has been achieved in recent years it was necessary that political parties address the LGBT population in a serious and systematic way in their campaigns.

What has also been achieved through this and the preceding GSA campaign, is expanding the number of parties that have an affirmative attitude towards the LGBT community and are not shy to present their positions during the election campaign. When we talk about supporting LGBT rights, we are definitely not talking about one or two political parties any more, as is often wrongly perceived, but a group of them who are more responsibly and more seriously than before addressing the LGBT community and who have a record of achievement and progress in the period since the last national elections.

In contrast to the 2012 pre-election campaign when political parties and groups publicly positioned themselves on the LGBT issues only after GSA sent them questionnaires, this time they started much earlier and in continuity, responding to media questions or through various activities by GSA. During the pre-election campaign, they more seriously and responsibly addressed the LGBT community and showed a greater openness and public support for the LGBT population than before.

These elections fleshed out a group of several political parties who have a positive attitude towards the LGBT population, who perceive the LGBT issue as important, who have an awareness that the LGBT community is a part of the electorate, who address them consistently and more or less strategically, and who offer solutions for improving the status of LGBT people in Serbia. This group includes Democratic Party (DS), New Democratic Party (NDS), Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) and Socialist Party of Serbia (SPS). According to the viewed criteria,  DS made the biggest step in the positive direction during this election campaign when compared to the previous period. Group ”It’s been enough” (“Dosta je bilo”) has a positive attitude, but they got involved in this topic a lot later than the others, in a less strategic and a more tidal manner, while Serbian Progressive Party (SNS) had a good starting position because of the work done in between elections and because of the positive attitude expressed at the beginning of this campaign, but they did not state anything else on the issue for the rest of the campaign.

Excluding the extreme-right political parties and groups whose negative attitudes towards the LGBT population have been known since before and repeated again in this campaign, as well as those parties who were silent on the issue during the campaign, when we speak about the pro-European political parties who front the 5 biggest coalitions, they did not have a negative attitude towards the LGBT community – quite the contrary. However, some of their coalition partners did – Bosnian Democratic Community of Sandžak (BDZS) of mufti Zukorlić, who is in coalition with Liberal Democratic Party, and United Serbia (JS) of Dragan Marković Palma, who is in coalition with Socialist Party of Serbia.

Minority parties participating in the national elections mostly remained silent on the topic of LGBT rights, except for Ruthenian Democratic Party (RDS) who expressed their support for the LGBT population in the final days of the campaign, while the Union of Vojvodina Hungarians (SVM), who assumed a positive attitude towards the LGBT population in the 2012 campaign, this time did not speak out on this topic. Democratic Party of Serbia (DSS) completely ignored the topic of LGBT human rights in Serbia during the campaign. United Regions of Serbia (URS) spoke very little about this topic during the campaign, i.e. below expectations, considering the previous period and the fact that they are a pro-European political group.

Overview and analysis of the attitudes of political parties and coalitions by category

Table 1.

(click on table to enlarge)

Categories in the table were made in accordance with the previously announced criteria for monitoring and analysing the attitudes of parties towards the LGBT population in the pre-election campaign for national elections, and for the purpose of a simpler, more specific and more accurate overview of the attitudes of political parties and coalitions. For certain categories, there are negative points, which were given for documented homophobia, hate speech, and similar. The description of categories, scoring and an overview of the parties’ attitudes by category can be found below.
Except for the category START, which refers to the support and activities regarding LGBT rights in the period from the 2012 elections up to the official announcement of the 2014 elections, all the other categories refer to the attitudes of political parties and their candidates for the Parliament during the 2014 pre-election campaign.
Considering that there is a high number of parties participating in the elections in various coalitions, in order to have an adequate score and as real and comprehensive overview as possible, the analysis was conducted with regard to those political parties of pro-European orientation who are standard bearers of their coalitions (also referred to as ’main parties’ in this Report) and who discussed LGBT rights during the campaign, while the attitudes of their coalition partners was viewed separately in some categories in the table.
The Group “It’s been enough“ has been placed apart because it does not represent a coaliton, it was formed during the pre-election campaign, and became involved in the GSA campaign only in the final week before the election silence, so it received points in those categories where possible.
Parties and political groups of the extreme right orientation were not included in this table because of their well-known negative attitudes with regard to human rights of LGBT people, nor did we include those parties and groups who gave no or too few statements, such as URS and RDS, since it was not possible to score them adequately per each category.

This category scored the results, i.e. support for the LGBT population and/or specific actions which the main political parties undertook in the period from the 2012 elections up to the point when 2014 elections were officially announced, taking into consideration whether they were in government or in the opposition. Sources of information were questionnaires by GSA that the parties filled in, but also primarily the documentation of GSA who conduct a continuous monitoring of attitudes and activities of political parties with respect to LGBT rights.
0: did not deal with the LGBT issue
1: showed public support for the LGBT population
2: took specific steps and made certain achievements

In the period since the last parliamentary elections, the parties who earned the highest number of points in this category, because they made specific steps and achievements, are Serbian Progressive Party (among other things, because they introduced hate crime into the Criminal Code), Socialist Party of Serbia (among other things, because they appointed an out politician and former LGBT activist as an advisor to a minister), and, in the opposition, Democratic Party (among other things, because they formulated a new party programme which includes a plan for improving the status of LGBT people). However, because of a negative statement by the leader of SPS about the LGBT population just before Pride Parade 2013, the maximum number of points in this category was reduced by 1 point during scoring.
Also in the opposition, Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) showed public support concerning the Pride Parade but did not have any other specific activities in this period. New Democratic Party presented the GSA team with the greatest challenge during scoring in this category, because it is a new party, formed from DS, and it was difficult to determine if it should receive some points, but in the end it was determined that it can receive a point for public support on account of the fact that its current leader – the then leader of DS – supported Pride 2012. It was not possible to give a score to the Group ”It’s been enough” in this category because it has only recently emerged on the political scene.

General assessment of attitudes of the main political parties towards the LGBT population during the 2014 pre-election campaign.
-1: negative attitude (homophobia, hate speech and similar)
0: neutral attitude/no comments on the topic
1: positive attitude

All political parties in the table, as well as the Group “It’s been enough“, have a positive attitude towards the human rights of LGBT people, and homophobia and hate speech were not noted in the statements of their candidates during the campaign.

The number of positive public statements about LGBT rights by political parties (both the main parties and their coalition partners), i.e. their candidates for the Parliament, during the pre-election campaign. Source of information was the monitoring of media, party campaigns and activities conducted by GSA (questionnaires, meetings, and other).
0: no positive statements
1: 1-2 statements
2: 3-4 statements
3: 5 or more statements

The greatest number of positive statements and messages directed at the LGBT population during the campaign were given by candidates from LDP and DS, a little less by SPS and NDS, then SNS, and finally the Group “It’s been enough“.
An interesting detail from this campaign is that rainbow-coloured flags appeared for the first time at any pre-election party convention – this happened at the final convention of DS in Belgrade and before that at a convention of the same party in Novi Sad.

An assessment of the consistency of the candidates’ statements, i.e. whether different candidates from the same political party, which is the main party in a coalition, had similar or differing attitudes concerning the LGBT population, whether they had contradictory statements, whether they changed their attitude during the campaign, and similar. This category was included because it often happened in the past that officials from the same party have opposing attitudes, which speaks of disagreement within a party about LGBT rights.
0: inconsistency
1: consistency in attitude

One of the biggest differences when compared to the previous period, concerning the attitudes of political parties presented in the table, has perhaps been made in this category because the parties showed a higher level of consistency in their attitude. There were no differing statements by candidates from the same party or a change of already expressed attitudes during the campaign. This shows that we are headed towards the point where more and more party officials and members accept to speak publicly in favour of LGBT rights and that this issue is becoming a matter of official party policy.
The Group “It’s been enough“ was not scored in this category because their candidates had only one statement (GSA questionnaire).

This category refers to the coalition partners and their attitudes in the campaign, i.e. whether they have similar or different attitudes than the main party in their coalition and whether the coalitions were formed (un)scrupulously with regard to human rights of LGBT people.
-1: coalition partners have a negative attitude (homophobia, hate speech)
0: they have a neutral attitude/had no comments on the topic
1: they have a positive attitude

Even though the main parties in the coalitions had a positive attitude towards the LGBT population, some of their coalition partners did not. A negative attitude was expressed during the campaign by BDZS of mufti Zukorlić, who is in a coalition with LDP, as well as by JS of Dragan Marković Palma, who is in a coalition with SPS. The Group “It’s been enough“ was not scored in this category because it does not have any coalition partners.

The level of responsibility shown by parties during the campaign and how concerned they were to address the LGBT community was “measured“ through whether they filled in the GSA questionnaire on human rights and whether they attended the meeting with LGBT activists.
0: neither
1: they filled in the questionnaire or they attended the meeting
2: both

The GSA questionnaire was filled in by party officials and candidates for the Parliament from NDS, LDP, SPS, the Group “It’s been enough“, while from DS by the leader of this party Dragan Đilas. The meeting with LGBT activists was attended by candidates from DS, LDP and League of Socialdemocrats of Vojvodina (in a coalition with NDS). Candidates of the coalition around SNS neither responded to the questionnaire nor attended the meeting.

This category refers to the assessment of the parties’ specific solutions for improving the status of LGBT people, i.e. what their plans are after the elections, which plans they laid out in the GSA questionnaire, in their programmes or in some other way during the pre-election campaign.
0: there is no plan/no comments on this topic
1: there is a partial plan, i.e. it has not been worked out
2: there is a plan

What measures the parties plan to take in the future when it comes to improving the status of LGBT people can be seen in their responses to the GSA questionnaire. Common  priorities are: an adequate application of the Constitution and the existing laws, especially the Anti-Discrimination Law, and the safety of LGBT people.

Did they position themselves during the campaign with regard to the legal regulation of property, health insurance and other issues of importance in same-sex partnerships?
-1: they do not support it
0: no clear position/no comments on the issue
1: they support it

LDP, DS, SPS and the Group “It’s been enough“ supported the legal regulation of same-sex partnerships during the campaign, while NDS did not express a clear position on the issue.

Do they have an out-LGBT person on their list of candidates for the Parliament?
0: no
1: yes

Unfortunately, none of the lists of candidates for the 2014 elections has an out-LGBT person. Just like in 2012, the greatest expectations of the LGBT community in this category were from LDP and SPS, however, again their lists, as well as the lists of other parties and coalitions, have no candidates who, in addition to fulfilling party criteria for running, also happen to be out-LGBT.

Total number of points, which we get by adding all categories. In this scoring system, the minimum total number would be -3, while the maximum would be 14.
The highest score is 13 points for Democratic Party; next up are New Democratic Party and Liberal Democratic Party with 10 points; and then Socialist Party of Serbia with 8 points. It bears mentioning that SPS would most probably have had the same score as LDP and NDS if SPS had attended the meeting with LGBT activists, which they initially confirmed attending, but then failed to show up due to some technical error on their part.

The campaign ”Your vote, your future” refered to and monitored the national parliamentary elections announced for 16th March 2014.
After the elections were announced, GSA invited pro-European political parties and groups, who were going to participate in the elections, to address the LGBT population in the pre-election campaign and to speak out about issues that are important for LGBT people in Serbia. This invitation was sent to: SNS, SPS, DS, SDP, LDP, New party, SVM, URS, NDS, LSV and the Group “It’s been enough“. After that GSA sent three more invitations to candidates for the Parliament through their election headquarters, in which GSA informed them about its campaign, methodology, monitoring criteria, and asked them to fill in the questionnaire about human rights of LGBT people and to attend a meeting with LGBT activists.
In addition, parties and groups were invited to send GSA their campaign materials which related to the LGBT population, as well as whatever materials especially intended for the LGBT population if they had any.
Through its campaign GSA monitored pre-election campaigns of all political parties and groups who participate in the national elections in the area that refers to human rights of LGBT people. Monitoring criteria were announced and published in advance.
GSA conducted the monitoring of pre-election campaigns according to given criteria by following statements in printed and electronic media, on official websites of parties and groups, as well as on their social network pages (Facebook and Twitter).
Furthermore, GSA activists attended pre-election debates and presentations of parties and coalitions, where they asked the participants questions about LGBT rights, and GSA also sent a questionnaire about LGBT rights to the parties and organised a meeting of their candidates with LGBT activists. All pro-European parties and coalitions had the same opportunities to get involved in the campaign concerning LGBT rights, they received ample notifications, and they were subject to the same criteria in monitoring their attitudes by GSA.
GSA informed the LGBT population and other Serbian citizens about most of what was noted from the statements and attitudes in the pre-election campaign on the GSA website and through social networks Facebook and Twitter, with the use of hashtags #TvojGlas (YourVote) and #Izbori2014 (Elections2014), as well as through notifications on various other forums, e-mail lists, portals and LGBT media and other means of public information.

“Your Vote, Your Tomorrow” campaign team of Gay Straight Alliance
Belgrade, 13 March 2014