CG/CP (11) 13

    Strasbourg, 29 November 2004

    REPORT ON THE MUNICIPAL ELECTIONS
    IN BOSNIA AND HERZEGOVINA
    (2 OCTOBER 2004)

    Head of Delegation: Mr. Stanislav BERNAT (Slovak Republic, L, ILDG)
    Rapporteur: Mr. Christopher NEWBURY (United Kingdom, L, EPP/CD)

    Document adopted by the Standing Committee
    5 November 2004

    Introduction

    On the invitation from the President of the Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mr Sehic, in a letter dated 15 September 2004, the Congress appointed a delegation to observe the municipal elections held in the two entities of Bosnia and Herzegovina on 2 October 2004. The Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) and its Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) were also invited to deploy long-term and short-term observers.

    At its meeting of 17 September 2004, the Bureau of the Congress decided to send an observer delegation comprising Mr Stanislav Bernat (Slovak Republic, ILDG), Head of Delegation, Mr Christopher Newbury (United Kingdom, EPP-CD), Rapporteur, Mr Keith Whithmore (United Kingdom, ILDG), Mrs Saima Kalev (Estonia, NR), accompanied by Mr Hugh Chetwynd, Acting Head the the CoE office in Sarajevo and Ms Caroline Martin from the Congress' Secretariat. The Delegation was also accompanied by Mr Henri Boit, cameraman, who was hired by the Congress in order to prepare a video presentation of the Congress' activities.

    The Congress wishes to express its thanks to Dr Igor Gaon, Permanent Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Council of Europe, and his staff for their assistance, as well as Mr Hugh Chetwynd and his staff for their help and logistical support.

    The Congress worked in close co-operation with the Election Observation Mission (EOM) appointed by the OSCE/ODIHR and wishes to express its thanks in particular to Mr Peter Eicher, Head of the EOM, Mr Vadim Zhdanovich and Mrs Angela Bargellini, OSCE Election advisors, and all the OSCE/ODIHR staff for their very competent and useful support.

    OSCE/ODIHR had gathered around two hundred short- and long-term observers (STOs and LTOs), not representing any elected body. The Congress' Delegation teams received information from the long-term observers about their respective area of responsibility.

    The Council of Europe's delegation took part in a series of preparatory meetings organised prior to the elections by the OSCE/ODIHR and by the Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo. On those occasions, an overview of the political situation of the country and of the electoral procedures was provided by various Representatives including Mr Peter Eicher, Head of the EOM, Mr Vehid Sehic, President of the Electoral Commission (EC) and Mrs Lidija Korać member of the Electoral Commission. Meetings with various representatives of the main political parties standing for the elections (Party for Democratic Action, Croat Democratic Community, and Civic Democratic Party) were also organised (see programme in appendix).

    The Legislative Framework

    The municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) scheduled for 2 October 2004 were especially significant as the first funded entirely from BiH sources; the first in which mayors were directly elected in all municipalities, except Mostar and Brcko; the first under an electoral regime that unifies the city of Mostar; the first elections for the Brcko District Assembly; and the first held under several new amendments to the Election Law.

    The various State and entity laws relating to electoral matters provide the bases for a democratic election process. In particular, the Election Law of BiH, enacted in 2001, provides a generally thorough framework for elections. In addition to the Election Law, separate laws were adopted in 2004 by the RS and the FBiH on direct election of mayors. These new laws were adopted through regular parliamentary procedures in each entity, rather than imposed.

    A large and detailed body of rules and regulations was issued to supplement the Election Law. However, rules and regulations for some post-election activities are still to be issued. The municipal elections were held before the adoption of legislation on local self-government in the RS and the FBiH. As a result, voters went to the polls without knowing the precise powers of the offices they were electing.

    With four distinct electoral systems operating, the municipal elections were held under a complex legal framework. A thorough verification of this system by the Venice Commission would certainly contribute to reduce its complexity.

    In the Republika Srpska (RS), mayors were elected on a straight majority/plurality basis. In the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) mayors were elected through a shortened preferential system under which voters can rank their choices among candidates; if no candidate won over 50% of the overall vote, then choices other than the voters' first choices should be factored into the equation for selecting the winner. In both entities, municipal councils were elected through a proportional system, using an open list and a 3% threshold. Mandates should be distributed using the Sainte Lague system, which tends to favour small parties.

    A separate law adopted by the Assembly of the Brcko District regulated elections there and provided for the first time for the direct election of the district assembly, which up until this election had been an appointed body. Members of the assembly were elected under a proportional system, with a minimum representation for BiH's three “constituent peoples” (holding at least three seats in the district assembly) and others; and with a subsequent indirect election of mayor. Unlike in other parts of the country, the electoral framework is also governed by the Final Award of the International Tribunal, which gives an international Supervisor ultimate responsibility over the District, including for the electoral process, resulting in a somewhat diminished perception of local control over the elections.

    Mostar also held its elections under a special electoral regime, imposed by the High Representative as part of the reunification of the city. The High Representative's separate amendments to the Election law of BiH ensure that there is a minimum of 4 councillors from each “constituent people” and a minimum of 1 councillor from the group of “others”. Furthermore, it should guarantee that no constituent people will have a majority in the new council. The mayor will later on be indirectly elected in accordance with the Constitution of the Federation of BiH. Our Delegation was concerned about some complex and problematic elements of this electoral formula: most residents of the city could cast two votes for councillors, but residents of one section of the city received only one vote. The populations of the six constituencies making up the city vary greatly, but each has been allocated the same number of seats. There is a maximum limit on the number of seats one constituent people can hold on the Council, regardless of its share of the population.

    Provisions were made in the Election Law for citizens of BiH living outside of their municipality of permanent residence to vote by absentee ballot (for those displaced within BiH), or by mail (for refugees living overseas). Registered voters who returned to their municipality of permanent residence after the closure of the voter registration period could vote by tendered ballot (only the ones living abroad from BiH). These new provisions were welcome by our observers, although further improvements should be put in practice for a larger number of citizens to know about them and to use them.

    The political environment

    The 2 October elections awarded four-year mandates for the 142 municipal council/assemblies throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina. Over 26,600 candidates sought 3,145 positions in municipal councils and assemblies, and there were 809 candidates for mayor. A total of 70 political parties, 18 coalitions, 180 independent candidates and 6 joint lists of independent candidates were certified for the elections, providing a genuine choice for the voters.

    Under the unique legislative framework of BiH, the constitution is part of the General Framework Agreement for Peace. The Peace Agreement is supplemented by binding UN Security Council resolutions and Peace Implementation Council decisions that give extraordinary powers to the High Representative and other international actors, including specifically over elections. This situation has a profound effect on the election process. In particular, in the years since the Peace Agreement, several hundred persons have been removed from office by international authorities, rendering them ineligible to be candidates in elections. The procedure applied does not provide due process protections such as a public hearing or judicial review.

    Most recently, on 30 June, 2004, the High Representative removed 59 persons from office and/or political party positions, almost all of them from the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), for various reasons. Earlier, the SDS and another major party, the Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ), were sanctioned financially by the High Representative for various offences, also without the benefit of due process. In a separate action, the amendment to the Election Law providing a unified election system for the city of Mostar (Article 19) was imposed by a decision of the High Representative after the main political parties failed to reach an agreement in extended negotiations. The international Supervisor of Brcko suspended one candidate from public office late in the campaign, although this action did not affect his status as a candidate. While such actions by international community representatives are in line with their mandates to promote peace and in compliance with UN Security Council resolutions, they are at least irregular, and even undemocratic, by international election standards. It is regrettable that the situation in BiH remains at a point where such measures are still deemed necessary.

    Following the general elections in 2002, three separate coalitions have governed at the entity and State levels. The parties involved in these coalitions chose not to run jointly in these municipal elections, although in some municipalities they supported the same candidates for mayor. The municipal elections represent a test of strength for the major (nationalist) ruling parties at the mid-point of their four-year mandates.

    The electoral administration and process

    As provided for in the Election Law, the hierarchical structure for the electoral administration for the 2 October elections was the Election Commission at the State level (ECBiH), Municipal Election Commissions (MECs), and the Polling Station Committees (PSCs).

    Three international representatives continue to sit on the seven-member ECBiH. However, national members guided the work of the election administration. The declining role of the international members augers well for a sustainable, fully national State institution.

    It could be said that, on the whole, the election administration functioned relatively efficiently. The ECBiH retained a high level of confidence amongst most political parties. The Election Commission was supported by a Technical Secretariat that dealt with the bulk of the administrative preparations for the elections. All EC decisions but one were taken by consensus. Prior to elections the EC indicated that all MECs were successfully established. Reports of a lack of funding for MECs in some municipalities were, nonetheless, the subject of EC attention. There were also concerns about the training and technical capability of some MECs. As the voting system in BiH is excessively complex, with a preference vote for mayors in FBiH and an open list system for municipal councils in both entities; and with separate types of polling stations operating for different categories of voters (tendered ballot, absentee and “regular”); this results in a lengthy counting process in Sarajevo. It can last over a week and can change the preliminary outcomes announced by the MECs. Overall, this procedure can reduce public confidence in the count and the results.

    Voter registration closed on 17 June. Nevertheless, updating went on for some municipalities as a result of party complaints. The overall number of registered voters fell marginally (of 30,000 voters) from 2002, to 2,317,014 voters, although the number of by-mail voters dropped much more substantially. The ECBiH and local officials made considerable efforts to update the voter lists. Still, most large political parties and many MECs asserted the lists were inaccurate and that in some instances had worsened since the last election. There were significant mistakes in several municipalities, notably Kakanj, where over 1,000 citizens who registered to vote did not appear on the voter lists. While the ECBiH made arrangements to enable them to vote, some individuals were prevented from running for office or serving on Polling Station Committees (PSCs). Voters registers is definitely an issue to be improved.

    There were around 4,000 polling stations for the election. The deadline for the composition of Polling Station Committees was 20 September. The EC issued an instruction setting up the lottery system for the appointment of PSC members; it also specified that, in addition to the legal requirement for multi-ethnicity, every political party could have no more than one representative on a PSC. Difficulties in meeting these requirements have been reported. Although the implementation of the new lottery system was an issue of some controversy, political parties in general seemed satisfied. In most municipalities, MECs managed to organise good and timely training of PSC members. Our Delegation would however recommend that a longer and more practical training be devoted to the counting procedure.

    The election campaign

    The election campaign took place in a generally open and peaceful environment. Overall, political parties and candidates reported no serious impediments to their campaigns. Few cases of political intimidation or obstructionism were reported. There were very few instances of hate speech. There were, however, a number of incidents that appeared to be election-related. The most serious reported of were a bomb thrown into the compound of a prominent candidate for mayor of Zvornik and at the business premises of the father of a candidate in Cazin municipality; in each case there was some damage but no injuries. In Banja Luka, a journalist working for a popular radio station owned by a candidate for Mayor was assaulted. The Bosniak President of the Bratunac (RS) Municipal Assembly threatened with assault. Three reported break-ins may have been politically motivated.

    Civil and political rights were generally respected by the authorities at all levels. The resolution over the past two years of most property return issues represented a major step forward, and removed a previously contentious issue from the election. Displaced persons were free to return to their pre-war municipalities both to register and to vote. Freedom of assembly and expression were observed. Candidates and political parties could campaign freely throughout the country.

    The campaign was relatively quiet. Parties held few rallies. Election posters were common but less so than in previous elections. In most municipalities there was little meaningful debate on substantive issues. While some parties made genuine attempts to address local issues in their campaigns, national concerns such as unemployment and pensions tended to predominate over local issues. At the State and entity levels, the campaign prompted mutual attacks by prominent political figures.

    Voter interest in the campaign appeared limited, especially among young people.

    Nationalism remained the principal underlying issue in the campaign. Several major parties used slogans or symbols that were thinly veiled appeals to ethnic nationalism. Many television advertisements unabashedly sought the votes of a single ethnic group. Several incidents were reported: flags of the former war-time “Croatian Republic of Herceg-Bosna” were burnt; In Livno, hostile anti-Bosniak graffiti were painted on buildings; In Bijelina, a defeated candidate from the recent Serbian Presidential elections allegedly made an inflammatory speech advocating a “Greater Serbia” including the RS; In Brcko, a party leader made comments suggesting that Serbs should return to Serbia; In Samac, a former war criminal who served six years in The Hague for ethnic cleansing was a candidate for mayor. At the State level, many party leaders gave provocative comments or proposals that contributed to a generalised atmosphere of ethnic identification and, in some cases, antagonism.

    There were numerous instances of involvement of religious figures in the election campaign. Many clerics were reported to have had an increasing political role, trying to influence the faithful to vote for the nationalists, by telling their flock “to vote for the good or salvation” of their respective ethnic group.

    As in the last general elections, numerous parties based in one entity fielded candidates in municipalities in the other entity. In a positive development, it appears that such campaigning was not necessarily directed primarily at minority return communities.

    NGOs registered a total of 433 domestic non-partisan observers for the municipal elections, drastically fewer than in 2002. In contrast, many political parties deployed poll-watchers.

    The TV, radio, electronic and print Media

    BiH enjoys a free press and electronic media. There are a broad variety of print and electronic outlets, providing a range of political views. The media as a whole provided sufficient information about candidates and political platforms to enable voters who sought it out to make an informed choice.

    In general, the electronic media presented the campaign in an uninteresting and lacklustre manner, with broadcasters apparently more keen to conform to regulations and avoid possible sanctions than to produce attractive programmes. In the print media, on the other hand, a broad variety of outlets provided a diversity of political views; the lack of legal restrictions on print coverage enabled the press to be partisan and lively.

    The principle of equal presentation in the electronic media was generally respected. In particular, the two entity public television broadcasters, Federation TV and RT RS complied with the regulations, providing candidates with the opportunity of free airtime. The new national television BHT did not transmit any election information except voter education clips produced by the ECBiH. Under a new regulation all electronic media had to provide coverage of the election campaign, including even private broadcasters that do not normally transmit news. Their coverage, however, consisted largely of monotonous surveys of political party press releases.

    Under a new amendment to the Election Law, paid political advertisements on the electronic media were permitted for the first time, and several parties took advantage of them. Broadcasters generally complied with the spirit of the regulations on political advertisements.

    The Communication Regulatory Agency heard 15 complaints about the conduct of the media, a number similar to previous elections. These mainly concerned unequal treatment of political subjects. Many are still being adjudicated.

    Two newspapers violated the Election Law by publishing the results of opinion polls within the 72-hour silence period, and three violated the prohibition on publishing campaign material within 24 hours of Election Day.

    Media organizations denounced pressure by some politicians and parties against the media.

    Minority issues

    On 17 May, an amendment to the BiH Election Law entered into force aimed at facilitating election to municipal councils of national minorities who are not one of BiH's three “constituent peoples”. However, since 15 May was the deadline for parties and candidates to submit their nominations to the EC, the amendments on minorities did not apply to the 2 October election. In any event, the amended legal provisions are not sufficiently clear and may require further amendment.

    BiH's 16 minorities – as distinct from the three constituent peoples – played only a marginal role in the election. In particular, the sizable Roma population was not well represented on party lists and appeared to take little part in the elections.

    Gender issues

    The Election Law requires that every candidate list include at least one-third women and onethird men, and stipulates a detailed order to ensure balance throughout the lists. The party lists for the elections were in line with this provision: a total of 9,554 women, or 36%, were registered as candidates for municipal councils and assemblies. However, open list voting has reduced the percentage of women elected in past elections, and was expected to do so again.

    The entity election laws providing for direct election of mayors appear to be in conflict with the Law on Gender Equality in BiH, adopted by the BiH Parliament in May 2003. The Gender Law requires that the percentage of the sexes in government bodies at all levels, including the judiciary, legislature and executive, shall as a rule reflect equal gender representation. Although it is not clear exactly how the laws on direct elections of mayors could have harmonized with the Gender Law, it appears that no official consideration was given to this issue. Just 32 women were among the 809 candidates for mayor.

    Women's presence and visibility in party hierarchies remains low. Issues of special concern to women were rarely dealt with during the campaign and women voters were rarely targeted in party platforms or campaign messages.

    As our Delegation could acknowledge, women were represented in greater numbers in the election administration.

    Complaints

    There were relatively few official complaints filed with the ECBiH or the Election Compliants and Appeals Council (ECAC). In the most serious cases, an independent candidate in Brcko was decertified two days before the election and a mayoral candidate in Banja Luka was decertified immediately after the polls closed, in both cases for inciting hatred. As of Election Day, only a handful of cases had been appealed to the State Court. The small number of complaints may reflect a general satisfaction with the election administration. However, it may also be due in part to the complexity of the complaint procedure, which may deter some interested people from filing official complaints; some political party activists also expressed a lack of confidence that the complaints procedure could remedy their grievances.

    Observation of the elections on 2 October 2004

    The 3 Congress' observer teams were deployed in Sarajevo, Mostar and Brcko. Altogether, Congress' observers visited around 45 polling stations. Global voter turnout was 46%; 42% in FBiH; 49.6% in RS and 64% in the District of Brcko, where enthusiasm for the election was notable despite the complex process.

    Election Day was peaceful and orderly. Very few allegations of significant irregularities were reported. According to the ECBiH, a total of 14 incidents at polling stations, none serious, were investigated by police on Election Day. Polling stations, with few exceptions, opened on time and polling station officials reported to work. International observers assessed a good conduct of the polling process in nearly all poling stations visited.

    Nevertheless, Congress' observers insist on the need for improvements in the procedures, especially with regard to the preparation of the lists of voters. The largest problem encountered was voters coming to polling stations without their names being on the voter registers (in 58% of observed polling stations), either because voters went to the wrong polling station or because they had failed to register, a phenomenon which was emphasized by the absence of a census for the past 13 years. Another problem was related to the complexity of the vote: owing to the presence of many political parties and an amalgam of several voting systems, there was much confusion on how to complete the ballot papers.

    Some cases of group voting were reported in the Brcko District. The Congress observers also noted some campaign material within 50 meters of polling stations. One team stressed the difficult access to polling stations for the elderly in frequent cases. Equally, more thought should be given to polling arrangements for citizens living in remote rural areas, where some people had to travel long distances to find a polling station. The organisation of mobile voting was rated as weak. There was no clear information about this possibility and some polling stations did not organise any mobile voting because of a lack of specific funds, or because the request had to be made prior to the elections, which many voters did not know.

    The Delegation welcomed the compliance with measures to safeguard the integrity of the polling process: voters presented photo IDs, signed the voter register and could mark their ballots in secret. One instance of a total lack of secrecy was observed on a mobile voting at the Mostar prison.

    Regarding the vote count, some observers from the different political parties interfered in the process, which showed that they did not clearly understand their role. Despite a good co-operation between the members of the polling board, the counting process observed was rated as 'weak' or 'very weak', reflecting a lack of training, rather than manipulation. The complexity of the ballot papers also added to the difficulty, and, as for instance in Mostar, two different kinds of ballot papers were put into the same ballot box. As a result, some polling stations failed to publicly post the results of the count. Firm official results can be expected after the re-counting process in Sarajevo, within a month after Election Day.

    Concerning the political results of the elections; as was expected, the main nationalist parties were the election winners both in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and in the Republika Srpska.

    Conclusions

    The Congress' Delegation is satisfied with the way the elections were conducted on 2 October 2004 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, though it is disappointed by the low rate of participation, especially in the absentee polling stations. In this respect, it is to be noted that the global 46% voting rate is lower than the rate of participation in the 2002 general elections.

    Congress' observers have concluded that these elections were administered in line with the international electoral standards of the Council of Europe and the OSCE, taking into account the country's unique, post-war political arrangements. They insist that the successful conduct of the elections marked further progress towards the consolidation of democracy and the rule of law under domestic control. In a particularly positive development, the direct election of mayors was adopted through regular parliamentary procedures by both BiH's entities. The Congress wishes to congratulate the Bosnian authorities for their commitment in organising fair and democratic elections.

    Despite progress, however, these remained essentially transitional elections. Under the unique context of BiH, ultimate authority still rests with the international community. Although this arrangement is in keeping with the international community's mandate to pursue peace in BiH, and is in compliance with international law as set out in binding resolutions of the UN Security Council and other international bodies, the result is an electoral process that is sometimes irregular, or even undemocratic, in terms of international election standards. For example, the removal of elected officials and barring individuals from candidacy without due process protections were once again concerns during this election.

    The Delegation was highly satisfied with the calm and peaceful election campaign, with few reports of intimidation. Although ethnicity remains the central underlying issue in politics in BiH and was predominant in this election campaign, the notable increase in cross-entity politicking, in which a number of parties sought to appeal to voters of more than one ethnic group, was a major accomplishment.

    The Delegation is generally pleased with the revised method of selecting members of Polling Station Committees that increased transparency and received broad support from political parties. The Delegation also stressed that the national Election Commission maintained high levels of trust among political parties and worked in a consensual manner.

    However, as indicated above, the Delegation noticed a series of shortcomings. First of all, it wishes to emphasize the scale of the problem of incompleteness of the voter registers. The Congress Delegation can recommend that at least a transition system of voter registration be implemented, for instance a registration form to be sent automatically to every household once a year.

    It deplores the weak representation of women on the parties' lists, and invites the Bosnian authorities to increase female involvement in future elections. In this respect, the Congress' Delegation strongly believes that women should be given an equal opportunity to be elected and thus have a better ranking on the parties' lists. So is the case for young people, many of whom did not go to vote, and who should also be further encouraged to play an active role in politics.

    The Delegation also regrets that the unduly complex electoral system, which few voters could understand and included lengthy counting procedures, may reduce confidence in the results. Therefore a thorough verification of the Electoral Law is recommended.

    The Congress is ready to assist the authorities and civil society of Bosnia and Herzegovina in continuing to improve its electoral process. Given the low turn-out rate reflecting a real frustration among ordinary citizens, most notably among the younger generation, the Congress calls for the newly elected, 4-year term representatives to take their responsibilities seriously in order not to disappoint their people and above all not to compromise much of the progress and goodwill achieved over the past years.

    APPENDIX

    Programme
    of the Congress Observation Mission,
    29 September – 3 October 2004

    Wednesday 29 September 2004

    Arrival: pick up from the Airport Sarajevo organized by the CoE office in Sarajevo and transfer to Hotel Holiday Inn

    Thursday 30 September

    09:15-10:00 Briefing with Mr Hugh Chetwynd Acting Head of the Council of Europe office to Bosnia and Herzegovina
    Place: Council of Europe Office in Sarajevo (Fra Grge Martica 2/III)

    11:00-12:15 Briefing with Peter Eicher, Head of OSCE/ODIHR Mission, and the Core Team of the OSCE Observation Mission
    Council of Europe Office

    12:30-13:15 Meeting with Mr Mirsad Ćeman - SDA, Party for Democratic Action
    Mehmeda Spahe 14

    13:30-14:15 Meeting with Mr Zdenko Antumovič- HDZ, Croat Democratic Community
    Titova 7a

    14:15-15:00 Lunch break

    CANCELLED Meeting with representatives of the Helsinki Committee for Human Rights
    Ante Fjamenga 14

    19:00 Dinner with Peter Eicher, Head of OSCE/ODIHR Mission, and the Core Team of the OSCE Observation Mission

    Friday 1 October 2004

    9:00-10:30 Meeting with Mr Vedim Šehić, President of the Electoral Commission
    Mula Mustafe Bašekije 6

    11:00 Departure of the Brčko team

    11:00-11:50 Meeting with representatives of Civil Society Promotion Centre, NGO
    Nikole Kasikovica 7

    12:00-12:50 Meeting with Mr Ibrahim Spahič- GDS, Civic Democratic Party
    Titova 7a

    14:00 Departure of the Mostar team

    Friday afternoon

    In respective areas of responsibility (Sarajevo, Brčko, Mostar):

    Meeting with Long Term Observers
    Meeting with the Municipal Election Commissions

    Saturday 2 October 2004

    Observation of elections and vote count

    Sunday 3 October 2004

    Return to Sarajevo
    Debriefing of the Congress delegation

    13.00 Joint Press conference with OSCE/ODIHR
    UNIS Tower Complex, Amphitheatre, Fra ANdeka Zvizdovica 1, Sarajevo

    Press release
    BiH elections mark progress towards democracy

    Sarajevo, 3 October 2004 – The municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 2 October were administered in line with international standards, taking into account the country's unique, post-war political system. This was the conclusion of the International Election Observation Mission, which published its preliminary findings today, based on the work of some 200 international observers.

    The mission was deployed by the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, (OSCE/ODIHR) and joined by representatives from the Council of Europe's Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe.

    “The successful conduct of these elections was a noteworthy achievement, which marks further progress towards democracy and the rule of law under domestic control,” said Peter Eicher, Head of the OSCE/ODIHR mission. “However, these remain essentially transitional elections, since the ultimate authority over elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina still lies with the international community.”

    “Election day was peaceful and well ordered,” said Stanislav Bernat, Head of the Congress delegation, adding: “Two particularly positive steps were the direct election of mayors for the first time in most places and the first democratic local election in the Brcko district, bringing democracy closer to voters.” The overall campaign was calm. Voter turnout, however, was disappointingly low.

    The IEOM regretted ethnicity remained the main underlying issue in the election campaign, although it noted the increased efforts of some political parties to appeal to voters of more than one ethnicity. While some parties made genuine attempts to address local issues, overall there was little meaningful debate on such issues and the campaign was dominated by national concerns such as unemployment and pensions.

    The elections were noteworthy for several accomplishments. Human rights were generally well respected. The national Election Commission enjoys a high level of trust by political parties. Most of its decisions are taken by consensus. The two entity broadcasters provided significant but lacklustre coverage of the elections, and the print media was lively and sometimes partisan.

    Shortcomings included an unduly complicated electoral system. The failure by authorities to ensure timely funding for the elections caused problems for the election administration. The failure of public officials to fulfill their responsibilities under the General Framework Agreement for Peace led to a need for continuing international involvement in the elections, including in ways that were sometimes irregular, or even undemocratic, in terms of international election standards.

    Election day was calm, with no reports of serious incidents and observers assessed voting procedures positively in an overwhelming number of polling stations observed. The problems that occurred were mainly related to people unable to find their names on the voter register, group voting and unauthorized persons in the polling stations. A few polling stations opened late due to minor incidents or failures by local election administrators. The counting and tabulation of results was evaluated as “weak” or “very weak” in 20% of cases, although this reflected poor procedures rather than manipulation.

    For further information, please contact: Urdur Gunnarsdottir, ODIHR Spokesperson, +48 603 683 122, urdur.gunnarsdottir@odihr.pl, or Caroline Helene Martin, Congress Secretariat, +33 3 8841 3018, caroline-helene.martin@coe.int



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