Political parties in Bosnia start their political campaigns prematurely and use public resources to influence citizens into voting for them in the upcoming General Elections, Transparency International in BiH (TI BiH) said.
“We monitored 175 events, candidates were present at 76% of them, while public officials who were not authorized to be there were present at 44% of them,” TI BiH said.
The organisation cited the example of the Day of the Municipality of Celinac, when as part of the event, the candidates who are serving government posts in Bosnia’s Republika Srpska (RS) entity addressed the crowd.
“At the celebration of the Day of the Municipality of Celinac, through an aggressive campaign, a concert of five pop artists was announced through billboards, and citizens were offered free admission to the concert. And before the concert, they were addressed by four candidates, of which two candidates had no authority to be there,” said TI, adding that those two were the RS Minister of Agriculture, Boris Pašalic, and the director of the RS University Clinical Center, Vlado Djajic.
Similar situations were recorded in Travnik and Bratunac.
“On the LED screens were the names of Edin Ramic, Bakir Izetbegovic, the designs were similar to the designs used by the Party of Democratic Action (SDA)”, TI said.
TI BiH Executive Director, Ivana Korajlic, also pointed out the problem of abuse of public resources.
“We have had events funded by public institutions that turn into pre-election rallies, including open invitations to vote for certain candidates, and even threats that if they don't do so, they will suffer the consequences,” she said.
TI BiH said premature campaigning is a major problem, explaining that monitoring starts three months before the elections, but that many parties start campaigning even earlier.
“There is a very widespread campaign to start the pre-election campaign earlier, and there is the abuse of public institutions, functions, funds, where huge public funds are used to get voter support,” Korajlic said.
Another problematic issue, she said, is hate speech which the Central Election Commission cannot sanction because the provisions of the Election Law refer to the election campaign period, which has not officially started. She noted that the amendments to the Election Law imposed by the High Representative which are expected to enter into force could have an impact on political subjects.