Local elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Nationalist rhetoric and well-known threats (Press Release)
On Sunday, November 15, 2020, local elections will be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). For the first time since 2008, a local government will be elected in the city of Mostar – made possible by an agreement between the political parties. According to this agreement, the members of the local council are elected directly, while the mayor's office is filled indirectly. "This year, the election campaigns are once again strongly characterized by nationalist rhetoric," stated Belma Zulcic, Director of the Bosnian section of the Society for Threatened Peoples (STP). "The majority of the parties are focusing on questions of ethnicity, trying to win votes with nationalist slogans, threats, and intimidation." For example, Milorad Dodik, President of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and Serbian representative in the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, has again threatened to break up the country and announced a Serbian-Croatian coalition.
According to forecasts, the parties that have been dominant so far are still in the lead: the nationalist SNSD party is leading in the Republika Srpska, while the nationalistic Croat party HDZ (Croatian Democratic Community of Bosnia and Herzegovina) is leading in the Federation of BiH. A majority of the Bosniak voters in the federation will probably vote for the dominant and ethnically-oriented Party of Democratic Action (SDA). The numerous opposition parties will probably not stand much chances outside the Bosniak-dominated parts of the federation of BiH.
"Once again, there are accusations of election fraud and manipulation by the incumbent government and the neighboring countries of Serbia and Croatia. By October, there had been 3,500 complaints by voters who were registered as voters in absentia or as living abroad, even though they live in the country. Also, names of people who have been dead for 20 years or more keep appearing in the electoral registers," Zulcic stated. "The relevant institutions must take these charges seriously and clarify these issues to allow for transparent elections and to ensure that the people can trust the democratic process.
This year, the Covid 19 pandemic makes the election process particularly difficult, and the traditionally low voter turnout could drop even further for fear of contagion. According to Zulcic, it is questionable whether the Central Election Commission will be able to organize a regular election process under these circumstances.
A total number of 3,283,380 eligible voters will be able to vote on Sunday, and 30,809 candidates will stand for election – mainly members of the 129 political parties and 72 coalitions, plus 262 independent candidates. They will be running for 64 municipal councils in the Federation of BiH, 56 communal assemblies in the Republika Srpska, and 31 representatives of the Brcko District Assembly – plus the positions of 120 heads of municipalities and 22 mayoral offices.