A pre-electoral delegation from the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE)* visited Sarajevo and Banja Luka to assess the election campaign and the state of preparation of the General Elections to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on 2 October 2022.
The delegation had meetings in Sarajevo and in Banja Luka with representatives of the Collegium of the House of Peoples of Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaders and representatives of parliamentary groups of the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, leaders and representatives of parliamentary groups of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, the delegation of Bosnia and Herzegovina to PACE, the President and members of the Central Election Commission, members of the diplomatic corps in Sarajevo, members of the OSCE/ODIHR election observation mission, as well as representatives of NGOs and the media.
The pre-electoral delegation recalled that an election is a process not limited to voting day. It noticed a multitude of campaign billboards and was told that campaigning was also conducted through classic channels as well as social media. It heard concerns from its interlocutors regarding the general lack of interest in the electoral process among the young, which, combined with a perceived lack of perspective, leads to many seeking to emigrate instead of envisaging a future in their own country.
It was also told about the existence of hate speech, of pressure put on public employees and even on employees from the private sector by political parties, which condition the obtaining or the keeping of a secure job on the vote (jobs in the public sector being widely perceived as being a merchandise to be sold with votes as currency). The delegation was also informed of the existence of different methods of vote-buying, including financial support for young people, pensioners and veterans (paid using public money in cash by post or even by bank transfer).
The delegation learned about the improvements introduced by the CEC to the out-of-country voting process and about their efforts to eliminate the practice of certain parties which create additional fictitious parties in order to obtain more places on polling station boards. It was also informed about issues such as political clientelism, lack of transparency of campaign funding and about most of the media, including public service broadcasters, being politically biased and being transformed into a tool of party propaganda.
While being aware that long-standing issues are unlikely to be resolved in the short time left until election day, the PACE delegation expressed hope that some steps would be taken towards the restoration of public interest and trust in the electoral process as a whole, as this is a precondition for the further democratic development of the country.
The delegation expressed the hope that in the newly-elected parliamentary bodies, the number of women would be increased.
It also hoped that the newly-elected governments would work together in a positive way with the High Representative and the international community.
The Parliamentary Assembly will send a 22-member delegation, accompanied by a member of the Venice Commission, to observe the General Elections on 2 October 2022.
* Members of the delegation:
Stefan Schennach (Austria, SOC), Head of Delegation
Corneliu-Mugurel Cozmanciuc (Romania, EPP/CD)
Claude Kern (France, ALDE)
Lord Simon Russell (United Kingdom, EC/DA)
Antón Gómez-Reino (Spain, UEL)