On the 12th of October Bosnia and Herzegovina held local elections, parliamentary elections at the state- and entity level as well as presidential elections. SILBA conducted an Election Observation Mission (EOM) in Sarajevo.
The mission consisted of 27 international observers divided into 9 teams, which altogether visited 77 polling stations. The mission was short-term and did not evaluate the preparations and the electoral campaign.
This report is therefore based on the events on Election Day only. In the report, the elections are evaluated as one election even though there were four elections taking place in each location, varying depending on the location.
In most districts visited, voting went in a calm environment. Opening of polling stations went according to the procedures, opening on 07:00 am and with all members of the appointed PEC present. However, a number of irregularities were noted, many of which were observed across voting districts. The role of some local observers remains a cause for concern. All SILBA’s observers note that many local observers across voting districts appear to be party proxies registering the names of individual voters on their own lists upon voters’ arrival and registration at the polling stations. This observation seems to be supported by some SILBA members who observed that local observers would sometimes leave the polling station as
In Sarajevo polling stations were observed in 9 districts. These were the districts of Stari Grad, Istocno Stari Grad, Centar, Novo Sarajevo, Vogosca, Novi Grad Sarajevo, Ilidza, Istocno Ilidza and Hadzic.
SILBA’s observers have noted as a common case that the names of voters are read out loud by committee members when voters show their ID’s in the door. This seems to be the practice across voting districts, in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina as well as in the Republica Srbska.
SILBA learns from local observers that the resulting lack of anonymity when voting under these circumstances may increase the risk of intimidation for not showing up at the polling station to vote.
The lack of capacity at polling stations was by some observers noted to be an obstacle to the secrecy of voting. Small rooms meant that election commissions and observers sometimes found themselves with no opportunity to keep a clear distance to the voting act. Related irregularities were also noted, such as the practice of one person assisting another voter to the poll station and ballot box. This however can be assessed as lack of attention to the importance of secrecy in voting rather than as attempts of fraud.
Irregularities were noted during the counting procedures, many of which nevertheless appeared to be unintentional or simply due to lack of experience. The lack of adequate instructions on the election procedures prior to the Election Day were observed as a challenge to the transparency of vote counting.
While the counting of votes took place in a transparent environment, observers in some districts noted that confusion about the counting procedures lead to many minor procedural errors. Observers in most districts also reported that substitutes to the PEC’s turned up around closing time apparently to assist in counting the votes.
From a practical point of view, SILBA can suggest to assure the adequate instruction of all election officials on the counting procedure in good advance prior to the Election Day. This should be done in order to avoid confusion during the counting procedure and thereby to reduce the risk of miscalculation.