Intl observers warn of shortcomings in election process

Source: FENA/Hana Imamović

Bosnia and Herzegovina’s general election was genuinely competitive but characterised by the ethnic-based segmentation, said the International Election Observing Mission in Bosnia, presenting its post-election findings on Monday.

The international observers said that the voters were presented with a wide choice of candidates who were able to campaign freely but that the camping focused on the negative rhetoric, personal attacks and fearmongering rather than on offering the alternative solutions and clear ways to solve the issues in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The media dependence on political and business interests often led to the biased reporting, and the cases of inappropriate attempts to influence the voters in favour of the candidates who are currently in power were not efficiently treated, the observers said.

Mavroudis Voridis, the Special Co-ordinator and Leader of the short-term observer mission of the Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) urged the institutions’ representatives not to waste time and to immediately start dealing with essential reforms.

“Restrictions on the right to stand based on ethnicity and residence are contrary to OSCE commitments, Council of Europe and other international standards,” he stressed.

Voridis also warned that Bosnia has not yet addressed the decisions of its Constitutional Court, treating the electoral legislation.

Head of the European Parliament’s (EP) delegation in the observer mission, Frank Engel, pointed at the problem of the financing of political parties in Bosnia, stressing that the EP will continue dealing with this country.

“If the leaders plan to serve to their own ethnic groups they should think about what will that mean for the country, and that will certainly be bad for Bosnia and Herzegovina. The citizens who seek their rights on the streets have no trust in the state institutions, which is why I hope there will be no second round of this election on the streets because that would mean the election failed,” Engel stressed.

The observers praised the work of Bosnia’s Central Election Commission (CEC), noting that this institution did its work effectively despite restricted budget and staff and in the atmosphere of constant criticism and allegations that referred to technical preparations.

Bosnia should get committed to fundamental issues related to the constitutional and legal framework, although many officials within the electoral administrations proved the commitment to the functioning of the system, according to the head of the NATO Parliamentary Assembly delegation, Rasa Jukneviciene.

The fundamental freedoms were observed but at the same time a long-term lack of trust in the institutions is present, said Ambassador Peter Tejler, Head of the long-term election observation mission of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR).

In its final report, the ODIHR will provide recommendations for the identified shortcomings, Tejler added.

The International Election Observation Mission comprises some 320 observers from 43 countries, including 250 long-term and short-term observers deployed by ODIHR, 30 parliamentarians and staff from the OSCE PA, 18 from PACE, nine from the EP and eight from the NATO PA.