Elections in Mostar marked by 47 – plurality dictated by democracy or deliberate fraud?


by  Adin Šabić

After not having been held for 12 years, the elections in Mostar on December 20 will be a historical event in the sense of reviving democracy in this city. However, numerous political entities are already now concerned about possible electoral fraud. 

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One of those who are concerned is Irma Baralija, who sued Bosnia and Herzegovina before the European Court of Human Rights because of the electoral process in Mostar, which has been blocked for years. Namely, after the Central Electoral Commission of BiH (CEC BiH) confirmed that 47 political entities were registered for participating in the elections in this city, whereof 38 political parties, and nine independent candidates, she commented as follows: “If I try really hard, I can think of some 15 political parties which really exist and which may be among those 38 parties. But what about the majority of those parties, who are those people, how is that possible?“

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She suspects that the “major parties“ have registered a multitude of imaginary parties, in order to put the Polling Station Committees completely under their control.

Those suspicions are justified, as the President of the Strategic Board of the Coalition “Pod lupom” [“Under the Magnifier”] Vehid Šehić, as he said for Interview.ba, while he was a member of the Central Electoral Commission, by performing a verification one year established that from 11 registered independent candidates, only one received a single vote, while the remaining ten did not even vote for themselves.

- And this is precisely the time when that manipulation started, in order to secure as many seats in the Polling Station Committees as possible. Having regard to the fact that the Law is clear, that only one member of the Polling Station Committee can represent one political entity, in this way you are securing that more of your representatives are in the Polling Station Committees, under the cloak of some independent candidate or some political party that is absolutely not active – Šehić explains.

He points out that after this electoral process, the focus should be on amending the Electoral Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, because, according to his opinion, “the control over the work of the Polling Station Committees must not be allowed”. And currently, Šehić continues, “we have situations where even all members of a Polling Station Committee are from one political entity, which is contrary to the Electoral Law of BiH.

Many political parties who have obtained a seat in a Polling Station Committee are selling it for prices ranging from BAM 500.00 to 2500.00, depending on the number of seats and the size of the constituency. That casts doubt on the integrity and the credibility of the whole electoral process, and thereby also on the electoral results themselves”.

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According to the Electoral Law of BiH (Article 2.19), a Polling Station Committee consists of three or five members, one of whom is the President of the Polling Station Committee. The members of the Polling Station Committee are determined by lot, and that is how seats in the Polling Station Committee are allocated to the registered parties. All five members of the Polling Station Committee are members of different political parties, so that they might control each other. 

- What we can see here are arrangements between certain members of the Polling Station Committees, who divide unused ballots and then vote for each of those three parties 50 votes each. Everything has degenerated into its opposite – Šehić says.

The CEC BiH insisted on amendments to the Electoral Law of BiH

CEC BiH member Ahmet Šantić points out that the CEC BiH has already insisted on legislative amendments pertaining to the functioning of the Polling Station Committees.

- We proposed that the Presidents of the Polling Station Committees are appointed by the City/Municipal Election Commission, and not by the political entities. We discussed those requests with the relevant government representatives, we also obtained the support of the international community and non-governmental organisations, but those provisions of the Law have remained identical so far, and the method of apointment of the Polling Station Committee has remained unchanged – Šantić says, who believes that the membership in a Polling Station Committee obviously is attractive to political entities and that there is a certain interest attached to that.

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He sees new technologies as a possibility to reduce the possibility for malversations in the electoral process. 

- When it comes to new technologies, there is always also the human factor. However, by introducing new technologies in the electoral process, the potential for manipulation would be reduced and that is something that should be strived for. The CEC BiH has done a lot in that regard. We proposed a whole set of models from the domain of new technologies, we even brought companies to BiH, we had presentations in the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, but political will is necessary for all of that. I believe that progress will be made soon with regard to that as well – Šantić says.

Watchful eye kept on Mostar

All eyes will be focused on Mostar this year, taking into consideration that the elections in this city will be held in December, whereas in other cities in BiH they will be held in mid-November. Essentially, the electoral process will be conducted in the same way, in compliance with the Electoral Law of BiH and rules that apply for all other cities.

- The City of Mostar will only be under scrutiny because the electoral process has not been conducted for many years. Surely, greater engagement will be required to keep everything within the law. I believe that many election observers will be present, and the elections will be conducted in line with the last legal amendments. A watchful eye surely will be kept on the whole process. It is important that the political entities contribute with their activities to securing a democratic atmosphere. As a voter, I am awaiting that day impatiently, and I surely will follow it closely and give my contribution so that the elections pass in perfect order – Šantić said, who was incidentally born in Mostar himself.

Already from previous experience, when the elections were annulled in Zvornik in 2004, and the last Local Elections in Stolac in 2016, Šehić stated that in the case of repeated elections there was a great number of election observers overseeing the whole electoral process.

- So that the Coalition “Under the Magnifier” will observe the elections in Mostar with special attention. We will try to cover all polling stations. Election observers have a very important role in the electoral process, in order to preserve the integrity and transparency of the electoral process itself – he said. 

The Coalition “Under the Magnifier” stated about the last Local Elections held in 2016 that they were conducted in compliance with the Electoral Law of BiH and the implementing acts, and mainly in a democratic and fair atmosphere, except for the municipality of Stolac, where a gross violation of the Electoral Law and the violent interruption of the electoral process occurred.