International observers speak of fair elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina

International observers speak of fair elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina

International observers who followed the election process in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) wrote their conclusions in the preliminary statement saying that the October 7 elections in BiH were genuinely competitive but characterised by continuing segmentation along ethnic lines.

“Long-standing deficiencies in the legal framework remain, and recent discussions on reform were stalled by political disagreements, further eroding trust in public institutions. Voters were presented with a wide choice of candidates, who were able to campaign freely. The contestants, however, focused more on personal attacks and fearmongering than on providing political alternatives”, reads the statement of the International Election Observation Mission to BiH.

The dependence of media on political and business interests often led to biased coverage, emphasise the observers, and instances of improper efforts to influence voters in favour of incumbents were not effectively addressed.

“We saw polling station commissions, many of them made up of young women and men, who showed eagerness to cope with the complex system during a long election day. The complexity and the deficiencies of the post-Dayton system should have been properly addressed a long time ago. I urge the institutions not to waste time now, but to immediately tackle the necessary reforms”, said Mavroudis Voridis, the Special Co-ordinator and Leader of the short-term OSCE observer mission.

Head of the delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), Dame Cheryl Gillan, said that voting was calm, and electors made their choice freely among a large number of parties and candidates.

“The PACE delegation regrets that, once again, the elections were held in violation of the European Convention of Human Rights concerning discrimination on the basis of ethnicity and residency. The delegation also expressed its disappointment that the election campaign remained segmented along ethnic lines”, Gillan added.

The freedoms of speech, movement and association were generally respected, in a campaign that was largely segmented along ethnic lines, with contestants resorting to polarising and negative rhetoric. There were instances of preferential treatment of incumbents by local authorities and of misuse of state resources, the statement says.

The observers consider the legal framework as generally conducive to holding democratic elections, but important long-standing shortcomings remain, as political deadlock has stalled constitutional and electoral reforms. Restrictions on the right to stand based on ethnicity and residence are contrary to OSCE commitments, Council of Europe, and other international standards and the European Court of Human Rights judgments on this issue remain unimplemented.

“The fundamental issues with the constitutional and legal framework must be addressed, but what we saw was also many election administration officials committed to making the system work, and many voters committed to shaping their country’s future”, Rasa Juknevičienė, Head of the delegation from the NATO Parliamentary Assembly said.

The lack of transparency in media ownership and the influence of political and business interests on editorial policies raised concerns about the ability of most outlets to provide unbiased coverage, is pointed out in the statement. Public broadcasters provided contestants with free airtime in the official campaign period. Media monitoring showed that Republika Srpska’s public broadcaster provided significantly more coverage to one of the state presidential candidates…. / IBNA