General Elections 2018
The incomplete legal framework, non-implementation of the binding verdicts of local and international courts, transparent violation of the Election Law of BiH, a record-high number of registered election irregularities, political influence on the election administration and the absence of sanctions contributed to the Coalition’s assessing the 2018 General Elections as partially irregular. This is the first time in the Coalition’s history to assess some segments of the electoral process as irregular.
During the period leading up to election day, October 7, the Coalition Pod lupom observed a record high number of election irregularities since the start of its election observation efforts (in 2014). There seems to be a general impression that political parties in this country do as they wish and that the law does not apply to them in the same way that it applies to ordinary citizens. This is made possible because of sluggishness of the electoral and investigation authorities to eliminate and process various electoral irregularities.
During the pre-election period, the Coalition's observers registered hundreds of cases of electoral irregularities, such as illegitimate pressure on voters, vote buying, threats of workplace firing or offers of new employment in exchange for a vote, misuse of public resources for the purpose of the campaign, voter registers not being up to date in some municipalities, illicit trading of places on the polling station committees, prohibited paid political advertising prior to the start of the campaign (three times more than during the 2016 Local elections), and other types of irregularities.
In addition, the Coalition received a number of citizens’ reports about various irregularities and
election fraud. Having in mind that there were far more electoral irregularities, we can assess that the pre-election period in BiH was, to say the least, chaotic.
The most concerning issue is a massive misuse of citizens’ personal data for the purpose of registration for voting by mail. Several hundreds of similar cases were registered and forwarded by the Election Commission to the competent Prosecutor's Office. The enormous increase in the number of voters registered to vote by mail, especially in some municipalities and towns in BiH is a signal for the competent authorities to deal thoroughly with this problem.
Unfortunately, there were also calls to violence or discrimination against some individuals and groups, which should also be treated seriously by the competent authorities. Equally concerning are open calls and messages encouraging the violations of the law, misuse of public office and resources and mockery of citizens.
Deepening of inter-ethnic and intra-ethnic divisions, instilling fear of other and different remains to be the main characteristic of the election campaigns and programs in BiH. It is disappointing to see how political subjects that are currently in power or that were in power during the previous mandates, are still not able to look to the future, to offer prospects to BiH citizens and to provide specific solutions to many accumulated problems.
With some slight deviations in the implementation of the electoral preliminary activities, the election authorities at the local level carried out adequately all preparations for administration of elections. However, the events regarding the BiH CEC and incidents in some municipalities undermine citizens' confidence in the electoral authorities.
The election day, October 7, 2018, was carried out mostly in conformity with the Election Law of BiH and other implementing acts of the CEC BiH. A number of certain incidental situations and irregularities on the election day point to the necessity to improve the quality of election administration in BiH. However, with all that happened during election campaigning, a high number of irregularities such as vote buying, misuse of public resources, pressure on voters, misuse of voting by mail voting irregularities, and irregularities in the process of establishing the election results, these elections were not held in a democratic atmosphere in which voters could freely and without any pressure make their own informed decisions. According to the CEC BiH, the national turnout in the 2018 General elections was 53.36% and compared to the 2002 elections this was the lowest registered turnout.
The election results were certified within the 30-day deadline. The election results were published on November 6, 2018. Legislative bodies as well as the Presidency of BiH, President and Vice Presidents of the RS that are elected directly in the general elections held their constituting sessions within the prescribed deadlines, except in the case of eight cantonal assemblies, which constituted after the deadline. Indirect elections for the HoP of the PA BiH and PFBiH were completed in February, i.e. March 2019, while the Peoples' Council of RS was elected to the NSRS in December 2018. Executive authorities at the level of BiH and Federation of BiH have still not been formed five months after the 2018 General Elections i.e. as of March 1, 2019.
The FBiH presidents and vice presidents have still not been elected and only three cantons have formed their executive government (Sarajevo, Zenica-Doboj and Una-Sana Canton). On the election day, October 7, 2018, the Coalition ''Pod lupom'' deployed nearly 4,000 observers at the polling stations across BiH. The Coalition's observers observed the election processes at 3,650 polling stations which is more than 60% of the total number of polling stations in the country. 60 mobile teams were deployed in the field and the observers also monitored the work of all 143 local election commissions.