The latest changes to the Election Law were passed in April of 2016 following the proposal of the Interdepartmental Working Group for Changes to the Electoral Legislation. As in the case of amendments to the Law during the year 2014, just before the General Elections, this kind of practice is not in line with the Code of Good Practices in Electoral Matters of the Venice Commission, which recommends no changes to the Election Law to be made during the election year.
A total of 32 amendments to the Law were adopted, and these were mainly most of which are technical in nature. The key changes related to increase of interparty threshold of won votes for allocation of mandates in local elections (municipal council/assembly) from 5 to 10%, while for the general elections, i.e. elections to the cantonal assemblies, the threshold was increased from 5 to 20%. Raising the threshold in this context represents additional closing of the lists, i.e. reduced voters’ influence when electing their representatives, and higher influence of political subjects. The Venice Commision is, also, of the opinion that a high intra-party threshold/preference threshold, which is quite rare, may de facto imply close lists although preferential voting is present. A moderate intra-party threshold or preference threshold from 5 to 7% provides good possibilities for voters to affect candidates’ lists.
In terms of gender equality, equal gender representation was also introduced for the compensatory lists, which was earlier was not the case. It implies 40% of underrepresented gender with a sequence in nomination of the candidates so that at least one candidate of underrepresented gender is amongst first two candidates, two amongst first five candidates, three amongst first eight candidates, etc.
Coalition “Pod lupom” has, through its advocacy activities for improvement of electoral legislation, and with the help of two members of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, proposed two amendments relating to introduction of the non-partisan function for the president of the polling station committee and public disclosure of the names of all members of the polling station committees, together with their affiliation to a political subject. The objective of the amendments was to increase professionalism in the work of polling station committees by introducing a non-partisan function for the president of the polling station committee and preventing the so-called trading of the positions in polling station committees, a practice that brings the legality of the electoral process and respecting of the voters’ will into question. However, members of the Parliament did not support the proposed amendments.
Also, on the issue of Mostar, in which the local elections were held in 2008 for the last time, leading political parties failed in finding an agreement between, so that the elections were again not held, and citizens of Mostar were deprived of their constitutional rights. Three proposals of the opposition parties were included in the agenda, but none of them was supported.
Although massive changes to the Election Law, even enactment of a new one, were announced after the 2014 General Elections, it can be concluded that there was neither the political will nor necessary political consensus to do something like that in a transparent, inclusive and comprehensive manner. The existing BiH Election Law still does not define deadlines for establishment of the executive or penalty provisions in case the deadline for the establishment of legislatures at all levels of authority are not observed. Furthermore, the Election Law does not recognize the notion institute of early elections that can serve as a mechanism to de-block the non-functional government in a legally prescribed situation.
During 2017, Coalition ,,Pod lupom” will advocate for 34 recommendations, of which 10 are a priority:
1. To set forth that the president of the polling station committee has to be a non-partisan person with experience in election management or with good knowledge of the electoral process, and that he/she is appointed by the local election commission;
2. To prevent exchange and potential trade of the seats on the polling station committees between the political subjects by publicly announcing names and last names of all members of polling station committees, and noting their political affiliation to the political subject that appointed them. It should be done immediately after their appointment to the polling station committee, and again at least five days before the Election Day;
3. To introduce separate translucent ballot boxes for every level of authority for which the ballots are casted;
4. To lower the height of voting booths to the minimum height that guarantees secrecy of the vote;
5. To introduce obligation to annul elections at the polling stations where deficit/excess of ballot papers is determined;
6. To equalize the status of non-partisan observers with the international observers in terms of rights and obligations;
7. To enable non-partisan observers to file complaints;
8. To put all legislative preconditions in place and to enable the conduct of local elections in the City of Mostar;
9. To shorten all deadlines from the day elections are announced until the official and complete announcement of final election results (instead of current 180 to 120 days);
10. To enable voters to scan his/her ballot papers at the polling station thereby preventing electoral manipulations and having the election results published faster.
All recommendations of the Coalition will be presented to the public at conferences and public debates that will be organized throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2017.
After General Elections 2018 observation, the Coalition ”Pod lupom” created 35 recommendations for better elections in BiH to advocate in the future, of which 15 are priority and those are:
1. To implement the verdicts of the European Court for Human Rights (Sejdic-Finci, Zornic, Pilav, Slaku) to enable both active and passive suffrage rights to all BiH citizens aged 18 or older regardless of their ethnicity or place of residence.
2. To implement the verdicts of the Constitutional Court of BiH regarding the amendments to the Constitution and Election Law of BiH and the formation of the HoP of the PFBiH and elections in Mostar.
3. To enable voters to scan his/her ballot papers at the polling station.
4. To introduce electronic voter identification i.e reader of unique bar codes from valid identification documents for identification of voters at the polling station.
5. To reduce the intra-party threshold for general elections in BiH to 10% to equalize it with the intra-party threshold for local elections.
6. To set forth in the Election Law of BiH a substitution representative mandate to avoid the situation in which one person performs public office in the executive government and at the same time wins a mandate in the legislative government.
7. To allow everyone to file a complaint about the electoral process during all stages of the electoral process.
8. To prevent misuse of public resources in the pre-election period and for the election campaigning purposes through legal regulation of this matter.
9. To improve the system of control over the financial transactions of political parties during the election and non-election year by strengthening human and technical capacities of the CEC’s Audit Department and by engaging other institutions that control financial transactions of legal entities.
10. To launch initiative for adoption of the state Law on Political Organizations.
11. To launch a parliamentary and extra-parliamentary debate on introducing a special election mechanism taking into account the complexity of the constitutional structure in BiH and the four levels of government.
12. To set forth that the president of the polling station committee has to be a non-partisan person who will be trained and prepared for work during non-election years through special education programs.
13. To introduce additional safeguarding mechanisms to prevent misuse of voting by mail.
14. Following the establishment of the number of unused ballots, and before the packing in the original boxes, the unused ballots should be made unusable by cutting off with scissors the lower right and left corners of the ballots.
15. To harmonize the Election Law with the Gender Equality Law in the section concerning gender equality in the process of appointing members of the Central Election Commission.