Member of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Irena Hadziabdic, told Srna news agency that the amendments to the Election Law of BiH imposed by High Representative Christian Schmidt come into force today.
Hadziabdic said that starting today, new misdemeanor fines in much higher amounts will be applied.
She stated that, according to the CEC’s assessment, the imposed changes will help make the elections more fair and less contaminated because the sanctions are stricter.
“We got a mechanism to protect the integrity of the elections, and in our opinion, this instills greater voter confidence in the elections, so we hope that this will affect a greater voter turnout,” Hadziabdic assessed.
According to her, the Election Law now includes mechanisms that can stop manipulations and ensure a fair election.
“Sanctions have been significantly tightened, so we hope that this will contribute to deterring violations of election rules, suppress violations and repressive actions, and curb everything that is not allowed,” she assessed.
She said that Schmidt intervened in several chapters – four interventions in chapter one, where there are definitions that are most significant for the CEC, and they concern hate speech.
“We also got a definition of abuse of public resources, which did not exist until now,” Hadziabdic assessed.
According to her, intervention was also carried out on chapter two, which helps efficiency and prevents blockages in the appointment of the election administration.
Hadžiabdić pointed out that the largest number of interventions was adopted in chapter seven and in chapter 19-A.
“Chapter seven is related to the election campaign, and in fact, with these amendments, most of the powers are tied to the election campaign that starts on September 2,” she said.
In connection with the chapter related to the election campaign, Hadžiabdić said that there is a very well-developed misuse of public funds.
“Each news is a challenge for the one who implements it, and at this moment it will be the CEC, which now has the authority to conduct detailed investigations and conduct a lot of evidence,” Hadziabdic added.
According to her, Chapter 19-9 is the novelty of 19-A and that chapter contains criminal provisions for both election administration and political subjects.
“The news is that in the case of violations committed by members of the electoral committee, the political entity on whose behalf the member of the electoral committee was appointed can be fined up to 10,000 BAM, and as for the sanctions for political entities, they previously amounted to a maximum of 10,000 BAM, and now they are 30,000 BAM, so the same applies not only to misuse of funds, but also to other violations that a political party can commit in a campaign,” explained Hadziabdic.
Amendments to the election law were published on the official website of the OHR in BiH on July 27th, when the law entered into force.
Here are five things you need to know about the changes.
-Central Election Commission (CEC) gets greater powers and stricter sanctions
According to the amendments to the Election Law, the CEC of BiH now has the authority to order the election commission, voter list center, polling committee, and counting centers to take measures to eliminate identified irregularities.
In accordance with these changes, the power of the CEC to impose a fine of up to 30.000 BAM on a political entity has been changed, which is three times higher than the highest penalty from the previous legal framework. With this change in the law, candidates will be fined from 3 to 15 thousand BAM for violations of the provisions of the law, while previously this penalty was from 1 to 5 thousand.
-Increased control of election committees.
With the amendment, the prohibitions were extended to the hitherto neglected election committees. Members of electoral committees are now prohibited from false representation on behalf of any political party, coalition, independent candidate, or list of independent candidates, as well as abuse in the work of the electoral committee in front of one political subject by fictitious representation on behalf of another political subject, to which that seat in the committee did not belong.
This amendment to the law regulates the previous practice of trading seats in electoral committees, which could not be legally sanctioned, and was the reason for the abuse of voters’ electoral will. By agreement or sale of places in polling committees, political entities previously appointed their members to these places, creating one-party polling committees in some places, which enabled absolute control of the election result.
”Abuse of the legal right to participate in the work of the electoral committee by fictitious representation is prohibited, as prescribed by the article,” is stated in the amendment to the Election Law.
-Extended prohibitions on misuse of public resources
The Election Law was amended with a new definition specifying the misuse of public funds and resources, as well as the sanctions for violations. According to this amendment, any illegal use of funds and resources of the state, entities, cantons, Brcko District, and other units of local administration and self-government at the disposal of candidates or public officials for the purposes of performing official duties is considered misuse of public funds and resources.
This also prohibits the use of means of communication, information services, office equipment of public institutions and bodies for the election campaign, as well as the use of official cars free of charge or at reduced fees for campaign activities, but does not refer to the transportation of persons who are specially protected in accordance with the law and official protection.
-Hate speech is described and regulated
”It is not allowed to use hate speech, and/or publish or use images, symbols, audio and videos, SMS messages, Internet communications, social networks, and mobile applications or other materials that can act in this way,” reads the amendment to the Election Law.
-Social media is recognized as a platform for parties
By amending the Election Law, the division of the media into electronic, online, printed, and social media was specified, through the definitions of each of them.
Electronic media are defined as public and private television and radio stations with the appropriate license of the Communications Regulatory Agency (RAK) of BiH, while printed media are understood as printed newspapers, magazines, books, and pamphlets with the aim of informing the public.
Two new divisions added to this law are online media and social media, which were not previously recognized by the law, and which election monitoring organizations presented as an important platform for monitoring the process, Detektor reports.