Strasbourg, 26 June 2001
CG/Bur (8) 12
Report on the local government elections in Croatia, 20 May 2001
Document adopted by the Bureau of the Congress at the meeting on 22 June 2001
Following the invitation by the Croatian Government, the CLRAE Bureau at its meeting of 20 April decided to send a delegation to observe the local elections in Croatia, scheduled for 20 May 2001.
Elections were held for municipal and city councils, county assemblies and the City Assembly of Zagreb. The elections were contested by tens of thousands of candidates for 566 councils at the various levels, representing a broad spectrum of political parties, coalitions and independent lists. No elections were held for the House of Counties as the Constitution was amended in March 2001 to abolish this chamber of the Parliament. A total of 3.8 million voters were registered.
The CLRAE observer group, which stayed in Croatia between 17 and 21 May, was led by Mr Keith Whitmore (UK – R) and comprised Mr Stanislav Bernat (Slovakia – L), Mr Moreno Bucci (Italy – L) and Mr Horst Lässing (Germany – L). The delegation was accompanied by Mr Ulrich Bohner and Mr György Bergou from the CLRAE Secretariat.
The CLRAE observers worked in close co-operation with the observers deployed by OSCE-ODIHR. They received considerable assistance both during the preparation of the mission and on the spot from the ODIHR Election Observation Mission headed by Mark Stevens, who provided logistical support, briefings and consultations during the observation. The Congress' observers wish to congratulate ODIHR for the very useful international observer guide prepared for these elections, and thank for the excellent co-operation throughout the mission.
The Congress delegation held meetings with representatives of the political parties, the Association of Towns and Municipalities of the Republic of Croatia and the State Election Commission in Zagreb (see programme in Appendix).
In accordance with the Bureau's decision to focus the observation on the war-affected areas of Croatia, on the eve of the election day the three CLRAE teams were deployed as follows:
· Mr Whitmore / Mr Lässing - Sisak and Petrinja
· Mr Bernat / Mr Bohner –Vukovar and Borovo Selo
· Mr Bucci / Mr Bergou – Knin and Kijevo
The observer teams had some political contacts in their areas. The Vukovar team met the President of the Joint Council of Municipalities, which allows Serbian representatives in the area to express their specific interests. They also met the incumbent mayor of Osijek, the President of the regionalist movement of Slavonia and representatives of the Local Democracy Agency. The Knin team met with representatives of the HSS and SDSS parties.
Following the elections, ODIHR organised a general debriefing session for all short-term observers in which representatives of the Congress delegation took part and presented their findings. A joint press conference of the two organisations was held in Zagreb on 21 May and a press release was also prepared and issued jointly (see Appendix).
Since the CLRAE teams covered a limited area in association with the numerous observers of ODIHR, this report covers only certain aspects of the elections and is partly based on information obtained from the media, ODIHR and other resources.
2. Election background
Croatia underwent significant political changes in January and February 2000 with the election of a new Parliament and President and a clear victory for the Coalition Six parties, signalling the end of 10 years of dominance by the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). However, most local government bodies continued to be governed by a HDZ majority. This was particularly true at the county level, but also at the town and municipality level, though some twenty-four by-elections over the last year resulted in some changes. In eighteen of those by-elections, parties of the governing coalition were able to elect the mayors.
The new government has expressed a commitment to addressing concerns relating to the return of Serb refugees, equal opportunity for citizenship rights regardless of ethnicity, and the full restoration of property rights. However, challenges in these areas persist.
The government claimed that HDZ dominance of the majority of local authorities had prevented them from fully implementing many of their reforms in terms of the economy, local investment and refugee returns. The ruling coalition, therefore, considered these elections as an important opportunity to consolidate the political swing away from the nationalists.
The opposition, and particularly the HDZ, in an effort to stem their decline in popular support, has focused on the continuing economic problems and high unemployment rates, as well as stressing ”national” issues, such as opposition to the current government's co-operation with the Hague war crimes tribunal and the return of Serb refugees.
For voters displeased with the performance of the government, but who do not favour the HDZ option, there was relatively little choice in the elections. For this reason, and the fact that the campaign has been lacklustre, many analysts have been predicting a relatively low voter turnout. Indeed, the unofficial figures published after the elections indicate a 46 % participation.
As far as the Congress observers could judge, in the war-affected areas support for the nationalist HDZ remained stronger than in other areas. In these areas parties from the ruling coalition were hoping to make some inroads into HDZ control, but it has been clear that this would mainly depend on the success of creative coalition building after the elections.
3. Legislative framework
The Law for the Local Government Election was adopted at a late stage, just nine days before the elections were called. This is a recurring problem in Croatia, again resulting in a high degree of uncertainty and confusion, as many political parties and election commissions appeared unfamiliar with the new Election Law, particularly due to the extent of changes between the draft law and the final version adopted (proportional system with a 5% threshold to qualify for the allocation of seats).
Article 15 of the Election Law mandates party lists to include the same number of candidates as there are seats available in the body to be elected. Except in the case of death of a candidate, no replacement mechanism is foreseen in the Election Law for disqualified candidates. The Constitutional Court confirmed that, in the event a list of candidates falls short of the required number, then the entire list is to be disqualified. Such a severe penalty does not seem reasonable.
The new Election Law contains no stipulated penalties for violations. The Criminal Code contains some penalties for violations of the right of voters, but there are no penalties contained in any law for violations of campaign regulations or other relevant election procedures.
The Election Law also fails to regulate political party campaign spending. Article 21 provides for partial compensation for parties receiving a minimum of one seat in a representative body. However, there are no regulations regarding the use of these funds, nor any provisions to account for the source or use of campaign funds. In addition, the Election Law fails to prohibit the use of State resources by the parties in power.
The Election Law encourages political parties to provide for gender balance in their candidate lists. An analysis of data from 10 out of the 21 counties throughout the country showed women candidates representing between 13 and 22% of lists. However, very few were placed in high enough positions on lists to be elected. The notable exception was Vesna Pusic, the main rival to the incumbent mayor of Zagreb.
It must be stressed that the Croatian authorities adopted not only the Election Law with a substantial delay, but also the Law on Local and Regional Self-government. Representatives of the Association of Towns and Municipalities at the meeting with the CLRAE delegation considered this law as a transitory one, regulating some issues but leaving open others. For example, the necessity of another law on local finances was mentioned and it was also regretted that the government had not responded positively to the Association's call to introduce the direct election of mayors.
4. National Minority Representation and Participation
The 1991 Law on Citizenship, disadvantaging those who are not ethnic Croats, has not been amended. This inequality was further highlighted in 1999 when the Constitutional Court relaxed the residency requirements for voting in the country, permitting ethnic Croats living in Bosnia and Herzegovina and holding dual citizenship to vote for local government elections in Croatia.
The new Election Law provides for minorities to be represented in proportion to their size of the population in each local government unit and encourages parties to take account of minorities in constituting their list of candidates. The Election Law also provides for by-elections to correct results that are not representative of the local population. However, the lack of any clear provisions in the Election Law to implement the proportionality is of concern. There are no procedures for the holding of by-elections. Further the Election Law does not stipulate whether the elected body will be increased in size to allow for the inclusion of any additionally elected minority representative, or whether previously elected members would be replaced by the newly-elected minority representative.
Moreover, the results of the 2001 census regarding ethnic self-identity are to be used to determine minority population levels and thus determine their level of proportional representation in the local government unit. There are concerns about providing minority rights based on census data where the Census Law does not regulate the inclusion of refugees, displaced persons or Croatians living abroad into particular electoral units.
An additional element for minority representation is Article 9 of the Law on Voter Registers (1992), which requires voters to be identified by ethnicity. Such a requirement may present risks for minority communities. In addition, the lists of candidates published in some newspapers also include the ethnicity of the individuals.
The Election Law sets different rights to ethnic Croat and Serb displaced persons in terms of their right to vote, in effect discriminating in favour of the former. This is another legacy from an earlier practice that requires consideration.
The Serb People's Council (SNV) complained to the State Election Commission that ethnic Serb voters in three counties were not provided with an adequate number of polling stations. Following the complaint, additional polling stations were provided in two of the counties, but Sisak County only offered transportation to the ethnic Serb voters to distant polling stations. The SNV considered this inadequate as ethnic Serb voters were apprehensive to travel to ethnic Croat villages to exercise their right to vote.
In October 2000, the Constitutional Law on Human Rights and Freedoms and the Rights of Ethnic and National Communities or Minorities in the Republic of Croatia were amended, inter alia, to refer to Roma for the first time as a national minority. However, Roma participation in the electoral process remained low. The community leadership was concerned that many Roma chose not to identify themselves as such in the 2001 census, thus undermining their right to proportional representation in the future.
5. Election Administration and Voter Registration
The State Election commission (SEC) comprises a permanent and extended membership. The permanent membership comprises a Chairman and four members (and deputies). The Chairman is to be the President of the Supreme Court and the members are to be appointed by the Constitutional Court from among judges of Supreme Court and other distinguished lawyers. None are to be party members.
The extended membership is appointed after the announcement of party lists of candidates, and is comprised of representatives of political parties, with three from the ruling parties and three from parties in opposition according to their composition in parliament.
The main role of the SEC is to stipulate procedures for candidacy and conduct of the elections and to supervise work of county election commissions (CEC) and the Zagreb city election commission(ZEC). It is responsible for appeals against the CECs and the ZEC in regards of procedures for candidacy and election of members of county assemblies. SEC decisions can be appealed to the Constitutional Court.
The President of the Supreme Court was not appointed until 15 May, resulting in the SEC effectively being run by the deputy Chairman and the appointed members. Extended members were only confirmed on 8 May.
The County Election Commissions and Zagreb City Election Commission also comprise a permanent and extended membership. Their main role is to announce party candidate lists for their respective elections, to supervise work of Municipal Election Commissions (MEC) and Town Election Commissions (TEC), to supervise the regularity of the election campaign in their territory and to announce results for members of their respective assemblies. CECs only appointed their extended membership on 10 May.
Municipal and Town Election Commissions appoint Voting Commissions for municipal, town and county elections and supervise them. They supervise the regularity of the campaign for municipal and town elections, compile, tabulate and announce results for town and municipal councils.
The Voting Commissions are responsible for the conduct of the election process. They count the votes after the close of the polling stations and deliver the materials to the respective MEC or TEC.
Appeals against the decisions or conduct of MECs and TECs are in the first instance to the relevant CEC and in the second instance to the Constitutional Court. Appeals against the CEC are in the first instance to the SEC and in the second instance to the Constitutional Court.
Electoral Registers are public documents, with citizens listed according to their place of permanent residence. Persons with temporary residence abroad are "registered according to their residence in the Republic of Croatia prior to their departure from the country". Voter Registers are kept by each municipality and are continuously updated. The Voter Register, as already mentioned, identifies each person by his or her "nationality" (i.e. ethnicity).
6. Election Campaign
The campaign officially started on 4 May, from the time of the confirmation of party candidate lists. This allowed for just a two-week campaign, as there was also a period of campaign silence from midnight on 18 May until 9 p.m. on 20 May.
The election campaign was generally well conducted but low-key compared to the parliamentary or presidential elections. Political parties used the opportunity to broadcast campaign spots on TV and posters were put up across the country. The election campaign largely focused on socio-economic and national issues.
The governing parties have stressed that the country is entering a new era, with better economic conditions on the horizon. Inflation is expected to fall to 4.5% from 7.5% in 2000, but unemployment remains high, with over 400,000 people out of work and only 18% of those receiving any welfare support. The opposition has tried to capitalise on this. However, for the HDZ it is possibly still too early after their 10 years in power to claim that responsibility lies solely with the new government.
There is general agreement that Croatia's future prosperity lies in building closer relations with Europe and securing increased international support. The initialling of the Stability and Association Agreement with the EU in the days prior to the election was thus an important coup for the government, opening up the possibility of future EU membership for Croatia.
The government has also pleased the international community by committing itself to better co-operation with the war crimes tribunal, though this co-operation has waned at times. However, the nationalist opposition has been vocal in its condemnation of this, stating that the government is "criminalizing the war" and stressing that alleged "crimes" took place inside Croatia, not on foreign soil, and thus were part of a "defensive action". The government's pursuit and trial of a number of senior military figures has helped focus attention on this issue, with the international community applauding the acts and the opposition and veterans groups denouncing them and demonstrating, such as in Split when 100,000 people were mobilised against the arrest of General Norac, accused of killing Serb civilians.
The campaign in Dalmacija was dominated by managerial and editorial changes at the formerly pro-HDZ but state-owned Slobodna Dalmacija newspaper just prior to the start of the election campaign, provoking a series of protest actions in Split. This highlighted earlier reactions to the arrest of General Norac and the violence at a recent football match between Hajduk Split and Dinamo Zagreb. Given the proximity of Split to western Bosnia and Herzegovina, there has also been criticism of the government for supposedly not standing up more for the Bosnian Croats in recent conflicts with the international community. At a recent rally, President Mesic was strongly verbally abused by veterans groups. His response, in which he indirectly referred to them as "Chetniks", resulted in a lot of media comment and political critique.
In Istria, there has been conflict over the decision by the county assembly to pass a new statute with Italian as an official language. The Ministry of Justice suspended 10 articles of the statute and the Constitutional Court decision is pending. In a parallel development, members of the Istrian Democratic Assembly (IDS) wanted to identify themselves as "Istrian" on their registration papers, however the SEC ruled against this. In Pula, a series of provocative posters were displayed by unknown persons, attempting to associate the IDS with Italian fascists.
In Petrinja, in Sisak County, an Independent Serb Democratic Party (SDSS) campaign meeting was called off, after protesters, allegedly from the Croatian Party of Rights (HSP), harassed the SDSS supporters. The protest was prompted by the publication of names of local Serbs, including some persons on the SDSS candidate list, accused of war crimes in Petrinja during the war.
Under the HDZ rule in the nineties, political control of the state media was pronounced and afforded the party enormous political leverage and advantage. According to monitoring of the 2000 parliamentary and presidential elections there has been some improvement in this regard, as the state-owned media was no longer purely a mouthpiece of the ruling party. In addition, a wide-range of private media outlets now offer a varied political comment and an overall pluralistic media for the general public.
Coverage on HRT and some private media included free campaign spots, discussion programs with party representatives, regional political presentations, and paid advertising. In addition, parties had the possibility to advertise in newspapers.
The Election Law provides only general guidelines for media coverage of the campaign. However, the state-owned HRT issued its own regulations on the coverage of the election campaign. These provided political parties with fair and equal access. In addition, the provision for reduced rates for parties wishing to advertise during the campaign was a further positive aspect.
The positive trends identified during the 2000 elections have continued, with a fairly balanced coverage offered to all participants. The tone of the coverage, in both electronic and print media, tended to be fairly balanced but offered the ruling coalition greater visibility, with a tendency to focus primarily on the government and its senior members. There was little coverage of, or debate about, specific municipal or regional issues.
Jutarnji List and Vecernji List, the largest circulation daily newspapers, provided generally balanced coverage of parties and personalities, though again with a high focus on the government. Monitoring of Slobodna Dalmacija showed a clear difference in the type of coverage offered by the newspaper prior to and after the change in the editor in early May. After the change of leadership, the government received most of the coverage, mostly positive.
8. Election Day
Continuing a trend noted during the 2000 presidential elections, polling was conducted in a generally calm atmosphere and in accordance with the law and regulations. Thus, in 93% of polling stations visited, observers reported a "good" or "OK" overall impression. Party or non-partisan observers were present in 82% of polling stations visited. In an overwhelming majority of observed polling stations (94%), voter identification documents were checked properly. With regard to a polling station environment conducive to a free vote, an insignificant number of reports were received about campaign material on display (2.7%), and pressure on voters or tension (2%).
However, the large number of voters assigned to each polling station at times caused overcrowding and compromised the secrecy of the vote. In some places more than 4,000 voters were registered, and the secrecy of the vote was also questionable, given the fact that the voting "booths" were made of cardboard, often placed inadequately on tables. But the voters in general did not seem to be intimidated by this lack of privacy and were able to cast their votes without any difficulty.
Police presence in the vicinity of polling stations was reported in just one case and inside a polling station was noted only in two cases (0.2%), local officials in 4 cases (0.5%), and other unauthorised persons were noted in 10 (1.2%) polling stations visited.
However as during previous elections, group or "family" voting was noted in 46% of polling stations visited, and proxy voting was noted in 6%. In this respect one of the party observers told the international observers: “Luckily we are now living in a democracy and democracy means that you can do what you want”…
The Election Law does not provide for the posting of results at polling stations after the count or for the general publication of results by polling station. This is regrettable as it decreases the transparency of the process. Nonetheless, the counting process was assessed by observers as "Good" or "OK" in 90% of cases observed at polling stations, and the aggregation process at MECs and TECs characterised as "orderly and proper" in 100% of the cases observed.
Domestic observer groups were very active on election day, deploying some 3,000 observers. This deployment was fully facilitated by election commissions and the provision in the Election Law for the accreditation and rights of domestic observers. However, some expansion of the rights of such observers during the pre-election period could strengthen their contribution to the election process.
The election administration bodies performed in a professional manner. However, the work of the State Election Commission could be further improved by the establishment of a permanent election commission with full-time administrative staff. The relatively slow process for identifying the extended - political party - membership on election commissions must also be addressed. This process can be expedited, as the basis for membership is the political composition of an out-going local government council, which is known in advance. Article 28 of the Election Law provides that all members of an electoral commission shall have equal rights and obligations. This requires that all members are identified and appointed in a timely fashion to participate fully and equally in the work of commissions.
The Election Law does not provide for formal party representation on polling station Voting Committees. This contradicts the provisions for parliamentary elections, in which Voting Committees have formal party members.
A significant problem was voters not finding their name on the register in some regions. The biggest shortcoming of these elections was the confusion surrounding the voting by displaced persons in Vukovar. The CLRAE team observing polling stations in Vukovar and Borovo Selo visited twice the displaced persons' polling station in Vukovar. A little more than 800 displaced persons were on the voters list in Vukovar from a number of places scattered over Croatia, in particular from the Knin area and from Zagreb. Out of these 800, some 140 have actually voted by the end of the day.
At the same time, more than 500 people who were trying to vote at the polling station were turned away, often without proper explanation why they were not allowed to vote. The Congress observer team and the ODIHR long-term observer in the area discussed the matter with the Chair of the Voting Committee and the Chair of the CEC.
It appeared that there were several reasons for the voters not to be accepted:
The displaced persons from the Osijek-Baranja County were supposed to vote in this neighbouring county, with their travel expenses reimbursed, although it was not clear how and by whom. At any rate, there was no voting material for that county in the Vukovar polling station. The fact that troubled the observers was that a displaced person living in Vukovar could not vote at his place of permanent residence for Osijek or Beli Manastir, whereas an expelled person living in Osijek or Beli Manastir could vote there for the city of Vukovar.
The voters' lists for displaced persons from various places in Croatia, in particular from the Sisak and Knin counties, were apparently much reduced as compared with lists used in previous elections. The observers were not able to obtain a proper explanation for that, as these voters' lists were established by the municipalities concerned, on the basis of data provided by the office for refugees. They may have come to the conclusion that the persons concerned had established permanent residence elsewhere, which could not be checked by the observers.
No refugees from this area temporarily residing in Bosnia and Herzegovina were allowed to vote this time. These refugees were supposed to vote directly in their places of permanent residence and not in displaced persons' polling stations. This situation seemed to disturb some of the refugees who claimed that they had been able to vote on previous occasions in the displaced persons' polling station.
Following the elections, the government acknowledged that some 1,500 displaced persons were not able to cast their votes. The minister in charge of war veterans complained that he himself was also prevented from voting. He said a lack of correct information led to confusion at some polling stations, and for instance members of some Vukovar families could go to the polls in Zagreb while others had to vote in Vukovar.
Prime Minister Ivica Racan said, however, that the law and procedure in this case were not breached and it was not within the Government's jurisdiction to decide whether to call again the election for authorities of Vukovar. It is the duty of the State Electoral Commission to establish whether there is a legal basis for repeating the ballot in the town.
The Knin observer team, on the other hand, did not observe any irregularities in connection with displaced persons' voting. They met with some groups of Serb returnee voters, apparently transported to the area in minivans, who had no difficulties in casting their ballots in accordance with the election regulations. They also met with a special representative of FRY President Kostunica, observing the elections in the area.
An area of concern was gender equality as required by Article 11, paragraph 3 of the election law. This states that “while composing the slates, the proposer should be obliged to take care of the principle of gender equality”. It is unclear how this requirement should actually be implemented. As mentioned earlier, this rule did not seem to be respected in practice. In most of the lists there were only a few female candidates. However, the observers noted with great interest that many voting centre committees and many of their presidents (51 %) were women, some of the voting centre committees were even composed exclusively of women.
Specific voting arrangements for displaced persons were not foreseen in the new law on the election of members of the representative bodies of local and regional self-government units published on 11 April 2001. This was apparently decided by the mandatory instruction no. LS-VII adopted by the State Election Commission of the Republic of Croatia on 30 April 2001, which is appended to this report. Therefore, the legal basis for the voting system for displaced persons seems to be rather weak. The mandatory instruction says nothing about specific arrangements for displaced persons from Osijek-Baranja County.
The observers note that four years after the peaceful reintegration of Eastern Slavonia and due to the fact that freedom of movement and civic peace were now guaranteed all over Croatia, specific voting arrangements for displaced persons did not seem necessary anymore. This was also shown by the sharply decreasing number of the voters concerned. The CLRAE observers were told that only about 6,000 voters were actually concerned by these arrangements.
The observers felt that given the low number of people involved and the difficulties generated which in many cases led to a situation where a person was not allowed to vote, the special arrangements for voting of displaced persons should be abolished in the future. A person would then always have to go to his place of permanent residence in order to vote.
Part of the problem may be linked to the fine distinction made in Croatian law concerning expelled persons (approximately 9,000 Croats from the Vukovar area, many currently living in Zagreb and the coast, retaining their status and the special privileges afforded by the government) and displaced persons (approximately 1,600 Serbs that had to leave the areas around Knin and Glina, who are now mostly living in Eastern Slavonia).
It also appeared to the observers that the legal framework governing the system of permanent residence in Croatia might need reforms, as it seems to be very difficult for a displaced person to establish permanent residence in the place where he or she has been living for many years. The observers were told (but could not check this information) that such persons would be able to change permanent residence only if they had acquired property in the area where they were living.
It should also be borne in mind that displaced persons had no possibility to be registered on the day of the election, whereas other voters could, on the same day, get a certificate from the municipality enabling them to be added to the voters' list.
Some of these aspects may also be linked to the 1991 law on citizenship, disadvantaging persons who are not ethnic Croats. As International Organisations have commented in previous reports, this law should be brought into line with international standards and should create equal citizenship conditions for all regardless of ethnicity.
Another area of concern is the representation of minorities, which is analysed in Chapter 4 of this report. It is feared that the practical implementation of the relevant article of the election law might encounter difficulties. It is also questionable how this article will relate to a future law on minorities that the Croatian authorities are at present preparing.
In general terms, the observers did not consider the indicating of the ethnicity of voters in the voters' lists compatible with European standards.
Finally, it was also clear that there should be more voting centres. The number of people registered at any one polling station should normally not exceed 1,000. The polling stations should be better equipped, in particular as far as polling booths are concerned.
On the whole, it must be noted that the election took place in a rather peaceful and matter-of-fact atmosphere, even in the area around Vukovar where enormous difficulties have been encountered in the 1997 election, when the area was still under UNTAES rule. Ten years after the tragic events in Borovo Selo and Vukovar, one cannot over-estimate the fact that today people of Croat and Serb and other nationalities can sit together and work together on Voting Committees.
In the opinion of the observers, these elections clearly met international and Council of Europe standards. We would not, therefore, normally expect the Congress to be called upon to observe any future local or regional elections in Croatia.
On the other hand, the new legislation in the field of local elections and the new law on local and regional self-government should be an incentive for the Congress to prepare a general report on the situation of local and regional government in Croatia, as it currently stands and as it will hopefully be complemented by a new law on local and regional government finance. Such a report could also look into the new statute adopted in April by the County of Istria, in the light of the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages.
Thursday, 17 May (Mimara Museum)
2 pm ODIHR International Observer Briefing
3.30 pm Logistics and deployment information
3.45 pm Regional briefing by long term observers
4.45 pm General questions and close of briefing
Friday, 18 May
10 am Meeting with the representatives of the Social Democratic Party at the Party Headquarters
11:30 am Meeting with the Association of Towns and Municipalities of the Republic of Croatia (Zagreb, Hrgovici 59)
1 pm Meeting with the members of the State Election Commission
2.30 pm Meeting with the representatives of the Liberal Party (at Party Headquarters)
4.30 pm Briefing by Mr Mark Stevens, Head of the ODIHR Election Observation Mission
5.30 pm Meeting with Mr Hrair Balian, Head of the ODIHR Election Section
Saturday, 19 May
Travel to the observation areas (three CLRAE teams)
Meetings with ODIHR long term observers and OSCE field officers
Meetings with Local Electoral Commissions and local party representatives
Meetings with local NGOs
Sunday, 20 May
7 am-7 pm Observation of the elections (visiting polling stations in the deployment area)
7 pm Observation of the counting of votes at selected polling stations
Monday, 21 May
Return to Zagreb
10 am Debriefing of the CLRAE observers (Hotel Inter-Continental)
11 am ODIHR national debriefing of short term observers
2.00 pm Joint press conference with ODIHR at the Hotel Inter-Continental
Council of Europe Press Service
Tel: +33 3 88 41 25 60 - Fax: +33 3 88 41 27 89
Croatian local elections generally in line with international election standards
Zagreb, 21.05.2001 - Yesterday's local government elections in Croatia were conducted generally in accordance with international standards for democratic elections, concluded the International Election Observation Mission(*) in a statement issued in Zagreb today.
“The overall positive assessment of these elections confirms the improvements we noted during last year's parliamentary and presidential elections”, said Mark Stevens, the Head of the Observation Mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (OSCE/ODIHR). “Unfortunately, a number of shortcomings remain, some of which were already highlighted during past elections.”
The international observers noted that the new Election Law generally provides for democratic elections, though the late adoption of the law contributed to some confusion regarding its implementation. The elections were contested by tens of thousands of candidates at the municipal, town and county levels, representing a broad spectrum of political parties, coalitions and independent lists. The campaign was generally well conducted, focusing on socio-economic and national issues. Media coverage of the campaign was mostly balanced.
Several shortcomings were observed in the field of national minority participation and representation. These include stipulations in the new Election Law which provide for by elections to ensure proportional minority representation, but fail to establish clear procedures on how to implement these provisions. Three other serious concerns, already highlighted during previous elections, remain: voter registers continue to identify the ethnicity of voters, the 1991 Law on Citizenship disadvantages persons who are not ethnic Croats, and ethnic Croat and Serb displaced persons are afforded unequal voting rights.
On election day, polling was conducted in accordance with the law and regulations, thus continuing a trend noted past year. The only exception was "family" voting, noted in half of observed polling stations. The vote count was also conducted accurately.
(*) Mission information
The International Election Observation Mission for the 20 May 2001 local government
"The former Yugoslav elections in Croatia is a joint undertaking of the OSC&OD1HR and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe (CLRAE).
The observers of the Congress were:
· Mr Stanislav BERNA T (Slovak Republic)
· Mr Moreno BUCCI (Italy)
· Mr Horst LASSING (Germany)
· Mr Keith WHITMORE (United Kingdom)
For further information, please contact
Ulrich BOHNER and György BERGOU, CLRAE Secretariat, Strasbourg -
Tel. + 220.127.116.11.22.48; + 18.104.22.168.28.04
STATE ELECTION COMMISSION
OF THE REPUBLIC OF CROATIA
NUMBER: Ls-68/2001 Zagreb, 30. 4. 2001.
In the accordance with the Article 26. Paragraph 1. of the Law on the election of members to the Representative Bodies of the Local and Regional Self Government Units ("Official Gazette". No. 33/01) State Election Commission issues
MANDATORY INSTRUCTIONS NUMBER Ls/VII
Town and municipality election commissions will determine precincts for the displaced and expelled persons from their area and will appoint them election committees, taking into consideration where the larger groups of expelled and displaced persons are, and also taking care on the evenly territorial arrangement of the precincts.
Expellees and displaced persons will be able to vote on the 20'h of May 2001 for the members of the representative bodies of the local and regional self government units in the area where they have their permanent residence, but not for the members of the representative bodies of the local and regional self government unit in the area where the location of the precinct where they actually going to vote is.