Bosnia & Herzegovina

BiH: Representatives of the international community sound the alarm over electoral reform

“You have heard us say that 2021 should be a year of action – a window to carry out the long-awaited reforms needed both to advance on the EU path and to make BiH a more prosperous home for all citizens. Now that we are in 2021, it is time to talk about details, starting with electoral reform. The reforms are not abstractions, but specific, reasonable changes, clearly reflected in the European Commission’s Opinion on the 14 Main Priorities, which includes the implementation of the OSCE / ODIHR and GRECO recommendations of the OSCE and the Council of Europe. These reforms address the shortcomings highlighted in the last general and municipal elections necessary to ensure that your votes are truly counted. We are ready to support and advise on reform efforts, but change will depend on the willingness of the country’s leaders to take responsibility, talk seriously with each other and make compromises, “EU Ambassador to BiH Johann Sattler said. , US Ambassador to BiH Eric Nelson and OSCE Head of Mission in BiH Kathleen Kavalec note in their joint OP / ED on electoral reform.

They add that “real change also depends on your determination as citizens to drive change and hold your elected leaders accountable for inaction. There is no time to lose this year – there are commitments to hold, potential for “to be realized and a better future to be secured. Reforms are urgently needed in 2021 so that the elections in 2022 are not affected by the same known shortcomings.”

“Elections are the blood of a democracy, but they must be free, fair and based on the principle of equality of every citizen. The Central Election Commission (CEC) has done a commendable job in organizing the 2020 local elections in a year of unprecedented challenges: managing not only the pandemic, but also the avoidable delays in securing election funding. At the same time, the elections were marred by ongoing issues that have given new impetus to the long-term implementation of ODIHR recommendations to increase transparency, improve the training of election officials, and strengthen power. of your vote, “notes OP / ED.

According to the authors, one of the most pressing priorities is the review of how polling station commissions (PSCs) are formed. PSCs are responsible for most of the current voting experience, including opening the polling station, identifying voters, keeping accurate records, providing election materials, and most importantly, conducting the initial counting of ballots. Currently, PSC members are appointed exclusively by political party nominees. With this structure, it is difficult to ensure the impartiality and professionalism of PSCs. Moreover, as seen in the last local elections, unequal or insufficient training for PSC members risks procedural errors, undermining citizens’ trust in the electoral process. Legal reforms can ensure a more balanced composition of PSCs, as well as introduce mechanisms to prevent abuses in appointment procedures, contributing to integrity by preventing irregularities and fraud.

“The introduction of new technologies can also contribute to the transparency and accuracy of the compilation of votes and the speed in the preliminary counting of votes, ultimately reducing fraud and making elections more efficient. For example, electronic voter identification would make it easier to detect the misuse of ID documents and falsify signatures as reported in the last local elections. “Finally, sanctioning hateful and offensive language beyond the election campaign will help ensure responsible dialogue,” they stressed.

Free and fair elections are the most powerful tool citizens have to hold political leaders accountable for their actions – and inactions – in giving the European future that BiH citizens want and deserve. “With enough political will, there is no reason why any of these reforms should be postponed. “The changes that ensure that each of your counted votes, without manipulation or political influence, will put power back in your hands, the citizen, to help make this future a reality,” they conclude.

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