Strasbourg, 12 January 2001

CG/Bur (7) 72

Report on the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (11 November 2000)

Rapporteur of the CLRAE observer delegation: Mr Keith Whitmore (UK)
Document approved by the Congress Bureau on 15 December 2000


1. Introduction

Following the invitation by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the CLRAE sent a delegation to take part in the observation of the general elections scheduled for 11 November 2000.

The CLRAE observer group was led by Mr Keith Whitmore (UK– R) and comprised Ms Suvi Rihtniemi (Finland – R), Mr Joseph Borg (Malta – R), Mr Andrea Rossini (Italy – LDA Zavidovici), Mr Dan Medrea (Romania – expert). The delegation was accompanied by Mr György Bergou from the Congress Secretariat.

The delegation worked in close co-operation with the observers delegated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly.

Prior to the elections the three delegations were extensively briefed by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina which was responsible for the technical arrangements of the elections. The observers held meetings with representatives of political parties, government officials and representatives of the UN Office of the High Representative (see programme in Appendix).

The CLRAE delegation also met with representatives of the Association of Communities and Cities of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The elections comprised voting not only for the country's state and entity assemblies, but also for the cantonal assemblies of the Federation, the presidency and vice-presidency of the Republika Srpska, as well as the municipal assembly of Srebrenica, where local elections were delayed from April 2000 to allow the only recently formed and certified municipal assembly an opportunity to work.

On election day the three Congress teams were deployed as follows:

Mr Whitmore / Mr Rossini – Srebrenica (Republika Srpska)

Ms Rihtniemi / Mr Medrea – area of Tuzla (Canton 3 of the Federation)

Mr Borg / Mr Bergou – area of Mostar (Canton 7 of the Federation)

On 12 November a joint debriefing session was organised for the three observer delegations, which was followed by a common press conference.

The CoE Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress issued a joint press release from Strasbourg following the elections, which is appended to the report.

Since the CLRAE teams covered a limited area in association with the larger observer delegation of the Parliamentary Assembly, this report covers only certain aspects of the elections and is partly based on information obtained from the media, OSCE and other resources.

2. Background to the elections

The big question of these elections was whether, as in 1996 and 1998, voters would again vote along hard-line nationalist lines or whether the effect of five years of international supervision and recent dramatic swings toward democracy in Croatia, Serbia and Kosovo would change their preferences. Previous legislative elections, in 1996 and 1998, reflected pre-war political divisions along ethnic lines. But there was some hope this time that the recent shift away from radical nationalism toward moderation and democracy in countries of the region would serve as an example for voters in both entities in Bosnia.

Since the civil war that ended five years ago with the Dayton Peace accords, Bosnia has experienced a brain drain of some 100,000. Many of the highly trained have fled a homeland where more than a third are still unemployed, while close to two-thirds - including the jobless - live in poverty. Irresponsible and shortsighted government has resulted in industrial production plummeting to 33 per cent of pre-war levels.

Nepotism and party loyalty have been the prerequisites for government office under the nationalists. Personal and party interests took precedence over the concerns of ordinary people, and even national or state interests. The slow rate of privatisation has hindered investment, a prerequisite to creating new jobs. Nationalists from all three ethnic communities have managed to slow down essential structural reforms, limiting vital foreign investment in the process. Bosnia now faces a profound economic and financial crisis.

Corruption is the single biggest issue. The international administration reckons the government loses around 500 million German marks a year through cigarette smuggling alone. Around 40 per cent of goods sold on the market are not taxed. An estimated 100,000 people work illegally.

The stakes of the November 11 elections were, therefore, especially high: The international community has made clear further assistance depends on voters rejecting the corruption, opportunism and obstructionism typical of the post-war nationalist administrations. The OSCE and the European Union's high representative have been urging voters to rethink their political allegiances, shun voting once again for nationalist groups and instead elect candidates from moderate parties, who will push economic reform, fight corruption at all levels and ensure the rule of law. The international community's get tough approach has seen scores of candidates removed from office and candidates lists in the pre-election months.

Among the political groups campaigning for moderation was Bosnia's multiethnic Social Democratic Party, or SDP, which functions throughout the entire nation. SDP chairman Zlatko Lagumdzija was hoping voters would opt for responsibility rather than cast ballots according to their ethnic identity. In the April local elections, the SDP captured more than 200,000 votes, becoming the largest in Bosnia. Under the new SDP administrations, many municipalities saw rapid improvements.

The SDP's moderation has upset nation-oriented parties - including, notably, the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, or SDA - which feared they would lose votes to the Social Democrats. The nationalists have been putting up a strong fight, provoking ethnic tensions and reviving nationalist paranoia to distract voters from real issues, such as the economy, employment and prosperity. A pre-election poll by the UNDP showed that while the popularity of nationalist parties had declined significantly since the first post-Dayton elections, they still had enough supporters to hold on to power.

Many observers had anticipated that Tudjman's death and the electoral disaster which engulfed his nationalist HDZ in the Croatian general election in January 2000, would undermine support for nationalist Bosnian Croats. Until recently the Bosnian HDZ - the Croatian Democratic Union - could count on full support from an absolute majority of Croats in Herzegovina. At the local elections in April this year, HDZ gained an outright majority in Herzegovina, but saw its turnout fall for the first time to 40 percent of registered voters. Such a poor showing indicated growing unhappiness with the party's policies.

Clearly worried by these events, the party embarked on a ferocious election campaign which bordered on illegality. The speeches of the HDZ leadership, especially those of HDZ president Ante Jelavic, brimmed with nationalist vitriol calculated to raise ethnic tensions as well as conflict with the international community. He has been warning that Bosnia's Croats face extermination if moderate parties win.

The party followed this up by calling for a referendum among Bosnian Croats on the same day as the elections. Although the question of secession for Bosnian Croats was not directly formulated, it was believed the HDZ planned to declare void any unfavourable election results and seek to establish a third independent region in Bosnia. The referendum was the latest in a fierce campaign by Bosnian Croat hard-liners against what they see as their loss of influence in the Muslim-Croat federation.

What has jolted the HDZ into action were new OSCE electoral rules for the upper house of the federal parliament. Under the old system Croats could vote only for Croats and Muslims only for Muslims. The new rules stated that cantonal assembly deputies could choose any federal parliamentary candidate. This meant that the HDZ would lose its monopoly over Croat votes. Although the number of Croats represented in the assembly would remain the same, they are likely to be representatives of other parties. HDZ leaders believed the changes would diminish their influence in the federation and prevent them from blocking parliamentary work as they did in the past.

The call for a referendum broke Bosnian election laws in many ways. According to the Bosnian Constitution, a referendum can only be called by state institutions, not political parties. The position of the international community on this issue was clear. The OSCE as well as High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch, stressed that a referendum organised by a political party would have no legal validity.

In the Republika Srpska (RS), the ruling nationalist Serb Democratic Party, SDS, founded by Hague war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, still enjoyed most support. True, the party held its nationalist, anti-Western rhetoric to a minimum in the campaign. Nevertheless, an international think tank - the International Crisis Group (ICG) - and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Richard Holbrooke called for the party to be banned from running in the elections. They claimed that many SDS war criminals are still at large, with some even serving in local authorities or occupying important positions in political and economic life, and blocking moves to create a sustainable peace in Bosnia.

In response to the OHR and OSCE demands, the SDS insisted that it had since long renounced extreme nationalist policies. The SDS has certainly exploited voter's preoccupation with the entity's abysmal state of affairs. Instead of banging the nationalist drum, it has devoted much of its time to accusing pro-western Prime Minister Milorad Dodik's Party of Independent Social Democrats and the government of corruption and incompetence. In surveys, the electorate has expressed more concern for the economy than national issues. Indeed, voters have been so disillusioned with Dodik's performance that they seemed to be prepared to elect the SDS which had no economic programme at all.

The key question is the authenticity of the changes the party has undergone. Some analysts suggest that the reforms have been merely cosmetic, citing the fact that the SDS has so far refused to declare its position on the issue of co-operation with the international war crimes tribunal.

3. Election regulations and the system of governance in BiH

As has been the case in previous BiH elections, the 2000 general elections took place under OSCE supervision. In addition to taking a leading role in the organisation of the elections, the OSCE also placed some 750 international supervisors in polling stations across the country on polling day to ensure the integrity of the voting process. In total, approximately 3,700 polling stations were open across BiH on voting day to accommodate in-country voters, while out-of-country voters cast their ballots by mail.

The most important changes to the electoral rules and regulations for the 2000 general elections were the adoption of Multi-Member Constituencies at the state and entity level, and the Preferential Voting System for the election of the Republika Srpska President and Vice-President.

In previous general elections in BiH, representatives were elected to represent the entirety of BiH, the Federation or the Republika Srpska. Under this system Sarajevo, Banja Luka and Mostar sent a disproportionate number of representatives to government. As politicians were not elected from defined geographical areas, they were not accountable to anyone but their political parties. The new Multi-Member Constituencies system places more decision-making power in the hands of the voters by having politicians represent distinct geographical areas, and will help ensure that elected officials are more accountable to those who elect them.

Additionally in previous elections, when voting for the Republika Srpska President and Vice-President, voters were allowed one vote for one candidate. That candidate who received the most votes won, even if he or she did not win more than 50 percent of the total number of votes cast. In the new preferential system, RS voters could list their preferences for as many candidates as they wished, by placing the number '1' next to the candidate of their first choice, the number '2' to the second, and so on. The candidate who receives the least votes will be removed from the running, and his or her second preference votes distributed as appropriate. Candidates will continue to be removed and have their preferences redistributed until one candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote. Supporters of candidates who have little chance of being elected still retain some influence over the electoral outcome, as their second, third, etc preferences can still make a difference in deciding who is elected.

The adoption of the open-list system, successfully used in the April 2000 municipal elections, has required cantons in the Federation of BiH to reduce the size of their cantonal parliaments in order to make the use of open-list ballots feasible. All 10 Federation cantons have been required to reduce their cantonal parliaments to the new maximum size of 35 elected members. As before, the open-list system allowed voters to select the candidates they want within a party's list of candidates, increasing the accountability of the political parties vis-a-vis the electorate. The open list system was used for all levels of elections, with the exception of the RS Presidency.

The elections in the Federation were rather complex, because of an additional level of government, that of the cantons. The Federation Parliament is bicameral: Federation voters directly elect the 140-member Federation House of Representatives through multi-member constituencies, while the 10 cantonal legislatures elect the Federation House of Peoples. The President and Vice-President of the Federation are nominated by the House of Peoples and elected by the Federation House of Representatives.

The Federation is formed by ten cantons. Each canton has a single legislature elected directly by the citizens of that canton. Any party receiving at least three percent of the vote is allocated a number of seats proportional to the percentage of the votes that party receives.

According to the constitution of the Federation of BiH, many of the entity powers are in whole or part devolved to the 10 cantons. Authority over such areas as health, natural re-sources and environment, social welfare, tourism and other public services are shared between the Federation and the cantonal governments. Besides the powers shared with the Federation, the cantons are solely responsible for police forces, education, cultural and public service policy, housing and land use, regulating and promoting local business, ensuring the availability of local energy, regulating local radio and television facilities, and implementing social welfare policy and providing social welfare services.

An additional responsibility of the cantons is tax collection, with some of the funds collected sent up to the Federation level and down to the municipal level. Cantons, in turn, devolve some power and responsibilities to municipalities, but the specifics of this arrangement vary between cantons, as representatives of the municipal associations pointed out during their meeting with the CLRAE delegation.

Power in a Federation municipality is in theory concentrated with the Mayor, who appoints a “Mayor's Cabinet” without necessarily seeking the approval of the Municipal Council. The executive position of mayor is chosen by the party or coalition with an absolute majority. Although municipalities are guaranteed self-rule in local matters, they are often heavily dependent on financial support from the cantons. In fact, cantons typically take 80 per cent of all tax revenues collected from any municipality, while leaving only 20 per cent to the municipal authorities. In some areas this ratio may vary, depending on the needs of the municipality. As a result, Bosniak majority municipalities have far less power than their counterparts in the RS and are often heavily reliant on the canton for financing. This means that almost all financial control in the Bosniak majority regions of the Federation is exercised at the cantonal level.

As a result, this balance of power is a disadvantage for parties which win on the municipal level, but do not control the canton. As seen in the SDP-controlled Tuzla municipality, after the 1997 municipal elections, Tuzla's SDA cantonal authorities used their power to block or overturn any progressive changes, and abrogated almost all financial and budgetary responsibility from the SDP-controlled municipality to the SDA-controlled canton.

In contrast to Bosniak municipalities, in the mixed cantons and in those cantons with a Croat majority, cantonal authority is more problematic. In such conditions, many municipalities saw the rise of local warlords and wartime political structures (Herzeg-Bosna) that showed complete disregard for the rule of law. The continued existence of the illegal parallel Herzeg-Bosna institutions further complicates the situation and the legitimacy of municipal and cantonal governing bodies. A good example of this is Canton 10. In any event, municipal structures in Croat majority areas typically wield more power than their Bosniak counterparts, yet their political allegiance is to the Herzeg-Bosna institutions, and not to the canton.

In the RS, municipalities are very powerful. Two main bodies in the municipal government are the Municipal Assembly and the Assembly's Executive Board. The most powerful positions are in the hands of the President of the Executive Board of the Municipal Assembly, and the President of the Assembly, while the Secretary of the Assembly (executive officer) acts in a more subservient role. Individuals appointed to those positions usually come from the winning party and their appointments result from inter-party negotiations and distribution of power. A new RS law on self-management of municipalities that took effect on 8 April 2000, significantly strengthened the already strong RS municipalities.

As with the BiH Federation cantonal governments, the Republika Srpska National Assembly plays a supervisory role over municipalities, and has the power to dissolve municipal councils in extreme circumstances.

4. The Provisional Election Commission

In order to be eligible to run in the 2000 general elections, political parties and independent candidates were required to register with the Provisional Election Commission (PEC). A total of 44 political parties registered approximately 6,000 candidates for these elections. 18 parties ran for the BiH House of Representatives, 31 for the National Assembly of Republika Srpska and 24 for the Federation House of Representatives.

The Provisional Election Commission (PEC) is the main body responsible for the regulation of the electoral process in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Established in 1996, the PEC's mandate is drawn from Annex 3 of the Dayton Peace Accords, which gave the OSCE the authority to establish the Commission as part of its wider mandate to “adopt and put in place an elections programme for Bosnia and Herzegovina.”

The PEC is composed of both national and international members, and is chaired by the OSCE Head of Mission to BiH. The other members include an international Deputy Chair, a designee of the High Representative, a representative appointed by Bosnia and Herzegovina, one representative for the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and one representative for Republika Srpska. In addition, there is one Bosniac, one Croat and one Serb member, as well as one representative of “Others”.

The Commission has been the longest-running, continuously functioning multi-ethnic institution in BiH since the signing of the General Framework Agreement for Peace. Until the adoption and implementation of an Election Law – and throughout the process culminating in general elections in November 2000 – the PEC will continue to be responsible for regulating the electoral process in BiH. This includes the establishment of electoral rules and regulations regarding:

- the registration of political parties, coalitions and independent candidates;

- the eligibility of candidates and voters;

- the registration of voters;

- the establishment of Municipal Election Commissions for the administration of the elections;

- the role of domestic and international election observers;

- the ensuring of an open and fair electoral campaign; and

- the establishment, publication, and certification of definitive election results.

The PEC Chair also has overall authority for ensuring the implementation of municipal election results across BiH. Implementation typically involves overseeing or mediating in power-sharing negotiations in order to ensure that smaller or minority parties, as well as the dominant parties, have some representation in appointed executive or administrative positions at the municipal level. Once the election results have been implemented in a municipality, the PEC Chair – following consultation with the PEC – is responsible for granting Final Certification to that municipality. The PEC Chair also has the authority to revoke Final Certification.

5. Voter registration

In the lead-up to the elections, the OSCE Mission to BiH has also been actively involved in the voter registration process. In 1999, an open-ended registration process was introduced in conjunction with the development of a nationwide voters register. At the same time, the Mission's Out-of-Country Voting Branch was providing voter registration services to BiH citizens living in more than 70 different countries around the world. Together, these measures will form the basis of a sustainable voter registration system in BiH, and are expected to pave the way for the final OSCE handover of elections responsibilities to national authorities, following these general elections.

Voter registration was organised at the municipal level. A citizen who no longer lived in the municipality in which he or she had resided in 1991 was, as a general rule, expected to vote, in person or by absentee ballot, in that municipality, provided that the person was determined to have registered in that municipality as confirmed by the local election commission and the PEC.

The rules and regulations in place for the 2000 general elections provided voters with a number of potential options depending on a particular voter's individual circumstances:

- Regular voters: Most BiH citizens taking part in these elections cast regular ballots. These are ballots cast by individuals in one Multi-Member Constituency for that same constituency, or one canton for that same canton, or for the RS Presidency and Vice Presidency. Regular ballots were counted at the polling station in which the ballot was cast.

- Absentee voters: As in past BiH elections, individuals displaced by the war were able to vote for their pre-war electoral units. To facilitate this, absentee polling stations were established in every electoral unit to accommodate voters who had not yet returned to their pre-war homes, and who did not want to return to that area on Election Day to vote there in person. Absentee ballots are therefore ballots cast in one electoral unit for another electoral unit. All absentee ballots were counted at the Counting Centre in Sarajevo.

- Out of Country (OCV) voters: More than 200,000 BiH citizens – most of whom are refugees – registered to cast their ballots from abroad in these elections. All out of country voters had been mailed ballots in advance, in order to enable these voters to complete their ballots and mail them back in prior to Election Day. All OCV ballots were counted at the Counting Centre in Sarajevo, and the counting of these ballots began immediately after the close of polls on November 11.

- Tendered ballot voters: Tendered ballots are ballots cast by voters whose eligibility must be verified by OSCE elections staff before their votes can be counted as valid. First introduced for the 1997 municipal elections, tendered ballots were used in special cases where the voter's eligibility could not be immediately determined at the polling station. For example, individuals who registered to vote out of country but returned to BiH before polling day were allowed to vote by tendered ballot. Tendered ballots were only available at absentee polling stations, and all valid tendered ballots were counted at the Counting Centre in Sarajevo.

6. The election campaign

The election campaign, which officially started on September 27, reflected the general economic crisis in BiH and the downturn in international donations. The Helsinki Committee for Human Rights in Bosnia and Herzegovina called this year's parliamentary election campaign the "dirtiest" since the war - even though it has been less violent than recent past campaigns.

Campaigning in the run-up to Bosnia's third post-war general election has been fierce, with the duel between nationalists and moderates more intense than ever. This election campaign has been the most vicious in recent history. Attacks on ethnic minorities have been on the increase, independent journalists have been intimidated, inflammatory speeches by nationalist politicians have heightened tensions.

Following the decision to call a referendum, HDZ posters appeared throughout the federation proclaiming "Self-Determination or Extermination". The campaign has been condemned by non-HDZ groups as "calling for lynch law and apartheid".

The increased mudslinging did not serve to persuade the people of Bosnia to vote for moderation. Less than a month before polling, Bosnian Serb school children in Brcko took to the streets in protest against sharing classrooms with Muslim and Croat pupils. Several people were injured, and a number of Muslim and Croat homes, shops and cars, destroyed. An investigation by international and local authorities accused local Bosnian Serb officials of organising of the protest.

During the election campaign period, all political parties, coalitions, candidates, and their supporters were required to respect the Electoral Code of Conduct. The objective of the Code is to promote conditions “conducive to the conduct of a free and fair election and a climate of democratic tolerance in which political activity can take place during the election period.” Among other things, the Code requires parties and candidates to refrain from using inflammatory or hate language, to respect the right of other parties and candidates to campaign freely, and to observe a 24-hour campaign silence period prior to the opening of polls. Penalties for violations of the Code can range from fines, to the removal of candidates from a candidates list, to the de-certification of offending parties, coalitions, or independent candidates.

During the 2000 general elections campaign, Monitoring Co-ordination Groups (MCGs) were deployed throughout BiH to observe and report on the campaign activities of political parties, coalitions and independent candidates. As in the April 2000 municipal elections, for the general elections campaign MCGs were staffed mainly by representatives of BiH non-governmental organisations, rather than by members of international organisations.

Campaign monitoring began approximately 40 days prior to Election Day. More than 50 monitors, working under the direction and supervision of OSCE field office election officers, were deployed. Monitors were responsible for observing and reporting on all campaign activities, from campaign rallies to the placement of party posters. In cases of campaign violations, monitors were not permitted to intervene, but instead were expected to report on observed violations or irregularities in order to enable effective follow-up action to be taken by the OSCE election officer, the PEC or the Election Appeals Sub-Commission.

The PEC expressed its serious concern over actions, statements, slogans and campaign advertising by political parties which were not in keeping with the Code of Conduct. A number of apparent violations of this Code have been referred to the EASC. During the days preceding the elections the EASC determined, for example, that the HDZ's slogan, "Self-Determination or Extermination" violated the PEC Rules and Regulations because it fostered ethnic hatred. The HDZ was directed to remove or cover these posters and campaign material containing this slogan.

After the elections, the EASC issued a decision concerning the role of the HDZ in supporting, promoting, and exploiting the referendum as part of their general election campaign. As this activity was conducted during the silence period, with approximately 600 referendum voting locations, it constituted a serious violation of the campaign silence provisions of the Rules and Regulations. The EASC determined that the violations of the Rules and Regulations warranted significant sanctions. As the greatest concentration of referendum voting locations appeared to be in cantons 2, 6, 7, 8, and 10, the EASC struck the two candidates who received the most votes on the HDZ lists for the cantonal assemblies in Cantons 2, 6, 7, 8 and 10. The mandates of these positions were removed, cannot be reallocated, and will remain vacant.

The EASC also issued a decision concerning HDZ's violation of the campaign financing requirements, stating that the HDZ deliberately and systematically obstructed the audit of its financial records by an OSCE audit team. As a sanction, the EASC struck three candidates from the HDZ candidates list.

In additon, the EASC sanctioned the Party for BiH for its campaign slogans "For a BiH without entities" and "It is time for BiH without entities" and for the party president Haris Silajdzic's references to the Republika Srpska as "that which was known as the Republika Srpska".

7. The media

It is a sign of progress that the media were generally compliant with the election rules, and significantly fewer breaches were noted in this election as compared to the April local elections. Nevertheless, there was a sharp increase in the frequency of reported cases of perceived violations of media freedom during the last period of the general election campaign. Twenty-seven new cases have been reported in two months, indicating that the political pressures on media outlets have remained strong and persistent. Most disturbing, of these 27 new cases, 13 were allegedly committed by government or public officials.

Fair, impartial, and comprehensive coverage by the news media is a critical component of the elections process. Since 1998, the regulation of media within BiH has been the responsibility of the Independent Media Commission (IMC). In advance of the 2000 municipal elections, the IMC issued a Code on Media Rules for Elections, which specified the rights and responsibilities of media outlets throughout the election period. This remained in place during these general elections.

The IMC was also responsible for monitoring and enforcing the Media Rules. During the campaign and through the silence period, media monitoring included daily monitoring of news and public affairs programmes on major broadcast media, random and mobile monitoring of regional and local media outlets, as well as daily monitoring of major print publications. Individuals or organisations also had the right to submit complaints regarding alleged violations of the Media Rules directly to the IMC. Media outlets found in violation of the rules were subject to a wide range of IMC sanctions, from a warning to financial penalties to the withdrawal of the outlet's broadcasting licence. Cases involving interference by political parties, coalitions, or independent candidates in the work of media outlets could also be referred to the PEC or the Election Appeals Sub-Commission for further action.

During the campaign, the Independent Media Commission has withdrawn broadcasting permits from two national TV channels, Erotel - Croatian TV, which was under the editorial control of the HDZ, and Bosniak TV, which is very close to the Muslim Party of Democratic Action, SDA.

8. Election day

Turnout on 11 November was estimated at about 65%, comparable to the figure for the April 2000 municipal elections. Over 7,000 domestic observers were registered from citizens groups and local non-governmental organisations, including "Elections 2000" and the Centre for Civic Initiatives (CCI). These observers played a critical role in all phases of the election day process, observing the voting process through the day and the counting process after polling stations closed at 7 pm. In addition to domestic and international observers, approximately 30,000 local political party observers were in the field on election day.

The 50 observers from the two Parliamentary Assemblies and the CLRAE visited more than 400 polling stations in different parts of BiH, including both entities. According to their findings the voting took place, in general, peacefully and in an orderly manner. Good order was maintained and the secrecy of vote was respected. No cases of violence or intimidation were encountered, electors were able to cast their votes freely and without fear or undue influence.

The observers were also satisfied that adequate measures were taken in polling stations to inform the public of the choices open to them and of the procedure of casting a vote. Since several elections were held simultaneously for different institutions in BiH, the voting procedures were rather complicated. This problem, however, appeared to be mostly solved by an information and education campaign prior to the elections and by the polling station officials' readiness and capability to offer information and advice. The officials observed the rules and regulations in a professional commendable manner.

According to many observers, this year's general elections were the smoothest and most efficiently run democratic elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina ever. The BiH Helsinki Commission's election monitoring group termed these "the most efficiently organised elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina since the Dayton Peace Agreement was signed. Many weaknesses observed at previous elections did not occur this time. The voter's registers were properly updated, a relatively small number of voters could not find their names. Almost all the polling stations were opened on time, and they all were supplied with the appropriate quantity of election material. The polling sites were not crowded. And what is especially important, on the day of elections, the security aspect was at the highest level"

Nevertheless, the CLRAE delegation observed some shortcomings, including confusions in the voters lists resulting in difficulties for some voters to find the right polling station. The use of the ballot boxes was not uniform: in some polling stations the same box was used for the different types of ballots, whilst in others there were separate boxes. As in many other countries of the region, man and wife were often observed entering the voting booth together.

Although not witnessed by the Congress observers, there were reports of attempts at fraud as well as violations of election silence and intimidation of voters.

The EASC discussed and ruled on a number of complaints alleging violations at various polling stations, or by polling station members on election day. It has been the practice for the EASC to issue summary decisions for cases in which the EASC has no jurisdiction or which involve relatively minor violations. Most of these cases were dismissed based on insufficient evidence or for failing to state a violation of the PEC Rules and Regulations. In some cases, the violation was found to have had no impact on the outcome of the elections. The EASC found a violation of the PEC Rules and Regulations in one case and censured the polling station chairperson and directed that he not be allowed to participate in the election process in the future. In another case, the EASC censured the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) for allowing its officials to represent themselves as OSCE officials and direct voters to vote for the SDA.

The EASC confirmed numerous instances of violations in the Travnik municipality polling stations, presented through citizens' complaints, International Observers' reports, political party observers' complaints, and representatives of international organisations. The evidence clearly established a pattern of voter fraud in six polling stations. The investigation confirmed that many of the irregularities were designed to benefit the HDZ. As sanction, the EASC censured the HDZ for organising this pattern of fraudulent activity and struck the first candidate on the HDZ candidates list for the Cantonal Assembly, Canton 6.

Serious irregularities occurred in Srebrenica, where the Provisional Election Commission took steps against the SDS at the municipal level.

Election observers present in Srebrenica reported numerous attempts to vote more than once, and the PEC received statements from six polling supervisors showing large-scale frauds or attempts of frauds, including attempts to vote more than once by using voter notification cards and false identification cards. Members of the Polling Station Committees in charge of identification checks also deliberately falsified the number of signatures when counting them at the start of counting. Because much of the fraudulent activity involved diversion of voter information cards, the PEC concluded that the Municipal Election Commission must have at least been aware of the irregularities.

There were many eyewitnesses who reported seeing representatives of the SDS intimidating or directing voters both inside and outside polling stations. The PEC therefore decided that half of the mandates won by the SDS in the Srebrenica municipal elections would be taken away from the party. Those mandates will not be allocated and will remain vacant. The PEC further demanded that the SDS take the necessary steps in order to rid the party of any individual previously sanctioned by the EASC, and instructed the SDS to provide it with evidence of these dismissals and the new composition of the SDS municipal board by 24 November. The SDS was also required to issue a press statement announcing the dismissals of the above-mentioned people. Failure to comply will result in the party losing the other half of its mandates in the municipal assembly. Following an appeal by the SDS, the EASC modified the PEC decision and decided to remove one third of the mandates won by the SDS in the Srebrenica municipality rather than one half of the mandates.

The PEC also removed the President of the Municipal Election Commission, and the two other Serb members of the MEC. All three will be banned from holding any public elected or appointed office.

The EASC also issued a decision in an appeal from the Social Democratic Party (SDP) involving a political pamphlet distributed by the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) Municipal Board Tesanj. The EASC reviewed the contents of the pamphlet, entitled "How to Vote for the SDA", and determined that the pamphlet contained instructions on how to receive "assistance" at the polling stations which blatantly violated the provision on voter assistance found in the PEC Rules and Regulations. As a sanction, the EASC struck a candidate from the SDA candidates list for the Cantonal Assembly, Canton 4, Constituency 204.

Special note must be made of the referendum held by the HDZ on election day, despite warnings that this would be a violation of the election silence period. On November 18 the Election Appeals Subcommission sanctioned the HDZ for this and for failure to disclose information about its financial status (see the chapter on the election campaign). The party has been warned also that unilateral steps to alter the structure of BiH would meet with more serious sanctions. In response, the party said it would not participate in new parliaments and governments until the EASC withdrew its sanctions.

The EASC also removed a handful of candidates from the SDA party and Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina (SBiH), for violations of election rules and regulations and for failure to disclose information about financial status.

The CLRAE teams also observed the counting in some polling stations, which took place in an orderly manner and generally in accordance with the rules and regulations. In some polling stations, however, too many ballots were declared invalid, even in cases where the voter's intention was clearly identifiable. The observers could not be present in the Counting Centre, where the procedures have been subject to criticism by certain political parties. One of the parties alleged that there had been an error rate of up to 23% in one of the counts done, but this allegation was clearly rejected by OSCE, which had been monitoring the process closely.

9. Conclusions

Following the third post-Dayton general elections in BiH many experts and observers are asking just how much progress has been made in the country in the past five years. The dust has not yet settled, since the count has barely been completed and technical certification of the results is still underway at the time of reporting. Bosnia and Herzegovina was expected to take another step forward on November 11, but in the short term at least, the results could generate a more confusing and tense atmosphere.

The margins between the nationalist and moderate blocks in both entities are narrow. Much will depend on what alliances political parties will make with one another, and that discussion will take time. With so many tight races, the real winners and losers will be sorted out in the horse-trading after the votes are counted. Post-election manoeuvring is still going on: Various coalitions, partnerships and unions are being forged in efforts to counter the potentially disastrous effects of the nationalist parties.

According to the results published by OSCE (see appendix), none of the parties will have an absolute majority in any of the state or entity parliaments, which can be seen as an improvement on the last general election when nationalist parties won overwhelming majorities. However slowly, the political landscape is changing: Since 1998 the moderate parties have improved their performance, bringing greater pluralism to the entity and State bodies. Indeed, the SDP is now the strongest party at the State level, rising from 187,000 votes in 1998 to 257,000 in 2000, while in the Federation it has nearly drawn even with the SDA. At the level of the BiH State and the Federation, there is a good possibility of moderate coalitions centred around the SDP, though the balance is fragile and much will depend upon personalities.

However, this success does not translate across the board. The harsh pre-election rhetoric and the appeals to fear caused a shift back to the nationalist parties in the days before the election, leading to results for the SDP which were less than anticipated. In fact, progressive political parties failed to live up to expectations: While western-supported moderate parties gained around 40 per cent of the vote in BiH overall, they did not do as well as some experts had predicted. Bosnian politics will be almost equally split between moderate and nationalist parties over the next two years.

Another effect of the pre-election scare-mongering tactics of the nationalists was the relative success of Mladen Ivanic's Progressive Democratic Party (PDP) and the SBiH. In part due to the heated pre-electoral environment, a significant portion of the BiH electorate was reluctant to switch from a nationalist to a non-nationalist party, preferring instead to move towards an in-between option. PDP, for example, doubled its projected results from the April election, and the SBiH also saw significant improvements. As a result, the PDP and SBiH may play a crucial role in the formation of new governments at both the State and entity level.

On the other hand, it seems that representatives of the international community miscalculated in Bosnia. It is obvious that they were wrong to believe that the democratic changes in Croatia and Serbia would bring about the fall of nationalists in Bosnia. Many diplomats in Sarajevo have expressed shock at the results of the ballot, particularly the strong showing of the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, in Republika Srpska. Although the SDS is clearly the strongest party there, the issue facing the parties now is to find a solution that will prove to be realistic in the long term. An SDS-led government would not be able to command international support, so the central question is whether a government of moderate parties can be formed under the leadership of Mladen Ivanic.

Likewise in the Federation, Croat-dominated areas still present the international community with one of its most intractable problems. Here the HDZ continues to enjoy majority support. They faced little competition in ethnic Croat areas in these elections, and in the referendum more than two-thirds of eligible Bosnian-Croat voters overwhelmingly supported a call from the nationalists for their own political and cultural institutions throughout Bosnia.

Many analysts place the blame for the HDZ's election success, and that of the nationalist SDS in Republika Srpska, squarely at the door of the international community and its policy in Bosnia. One example was the decision to change the electoral rules so close to the ballot. Thus the HDZ could easily stir up nationalistic sentiment, arguing that the new system gave an unfair advantage to the majority Muslim population.

The HDZ ruse proved to be effective. The party won more votes than in the April local election, and significantly more than surveys conducted over the past few months had predicted. What's worse, the HDZ's radical rhetoric seems to have affected not only Bosnian Croats voters, but Muslims and Serbs as well.

The general consensus is that the dirty and fierce pre-election campaigns of the HDZ and the SDA stoked up ethnic fears and tensions, robbing the opposition parties of a significant number of votes across the country. During the pre-election period, the two parties managed to divert public attention away from bread-and-butter issues to the nationalist bigotry of old. Inflammatory speeches, which increased ethnic violence and tensions, very much resembled the prelude to the Bosnian war in 1992.

The climax of these campaigns was the illegal referendum organised by Bosnian Croat hard-liners on election day, in defiance of the international community. The party's referendum created a "nationalist domino effect," bolstering support for the SDS and SDA.

And although several international officials hailed the November ballot as a success, developments and announcements over the days following the elections show it was far from perfect. In fact, the strategy for reforming the political scene in BiH appears to have been ill-conceived. As a result, after more than five billion dollars invested in Bosnia, there are just a handful of independent media, and the non-governmental sector, which played an important part in bringing the changes in Croatia and Serbia, is almost non-existent.

The independent Sarajevo daily "Oslobodjenje" commented that the outcome represents a missed opportunity because serious change in Bosnia will now have to be delayed at least until after the next general elections in two years. Although the paper sees the apparent increase in support for moderate parties as a move away from nationalism, it notes that the nationalist parties, which used negative campaigning and manipulation, will be a strong political factor for a long time to come.

International organisations will continue to face a difficult task when assisting the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina in taking advantage of the democratic changes that have occurred in the region over the past year. The naive belief that changes in former Yugoslav countries occur as a result of some sort of domino effect - that the collapse of the Tudjman regime led to the collapse of the Milosevic regime, which in turn will automatically deal a fatal blow to nationalist politics in Bosnia cannot be sustained.

The role of the international community will be more crucial than ever in the formation of legislative and government bodies capable of dealing with the agenda of change which the people of BiH so desperately need.

The democratisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina should be further promoted by focusing on improved governance at all levels, and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe should contribute to this process in its areas of competence.

Appendix 1: Mission programme

Thursday 9 November 2000

Hotel Holiday Inn - Salon “Drina”

Briefing by OSCE Mission on the BiH electoral system and other arrangements)

16.00 Meeting of CLRAE observers with representatives of local and regional authorities of BiH - Salon “Vrbas”

17.00 Meeting of

Members of Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of the Delegation of the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe (CLRAE)


Dr. Sonja Moser- Starrach, Special Representative of the Secretary General of the Council of Europe in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Ambassador Enrico Pietromarchi, Representative of outgoing Chairman- in- Office of the Committee of Ministers of CoE and Ambassadors of Member States of the Council of Europe, present in Sarajevo

Ambassador Jacques-Paul Klein, Special Representative of the Secretary General of UN

Ambassador Robert Barry, Head of OSCE Mission in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Message of Eminence Dr. Mustafa ef. Cerić, Reisu-l-Ulema of BiH, presented by Mr. Ifet Mustafić, the International and Interreligious Relations' Adviser

Eminence Vinko Cardinal Puljić, BiH Archbishop

Excellency Metropolitan BiH Nikolaj Mrđa

Excellence Dr. Jadranko Prlić, Minister of Foreign Affairs of BiH

Afterwards Cocktail in Gallery “Tenda” hosted by H.E. Enrico Pietromarchi, Ambassador of Italian Republic in BiH

Friday 10 November 2000

Salon “Drina”

9.30 -10.00 Meeting of

Members of CoE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of Delegation of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe


Special Guest delegation of BiH to the CoE Parliamentary Assembly

10.00 – 11.45 Meeting of

Members of CoE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation,

Members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of Delegation of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe


Political Parties' leaders

11.45- 12.15 Meeting of

Members of CoE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of Delegation of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe


Ambassador Wolfgang Petritsch, High Representative for BiH

12.15. Continuation of the meeting with Political Parties' leaders

14.30 Meeting of

Members of CoE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of Delegation of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe


H.E. Jadranko Prlic, Minister for Foreign Affairs of BiH

15.30 Meeting with

Ambassador Robert Barry and briefing of OSCE


Members of CoE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of OSCE Parliamentary Assembly's Delegation

Members of Delegation of Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of Europe

18.00 Departure for the areas of deployment

Saturday 11 November 2000

Observation of the elections

Sunday 12 November 2000

Return to Sarajevo

10.00 Meeting of the three observer delegations and de-briefing

13.00 Press Conference

Appendix 2: Press release

Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina: a watershed for democracy?

Strasbourg, 13.11.2000 - The delegations of the Parliamentary Assembly and the Congress of Local and Regional Authorities of the Council of Europe, observing the parliamentary and municipal elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, can today confirm that the elections were carried out in a calm and peaceful atmosphere with very few incidents.

During the Election Day the observers visited more than 100 polling stations in different parts of BiH, including both entities. According to their findings the voting took place in a professionally commendable manner. Good order was maintained and the secrecy of vote was respected. No cases of violence or intimidation were reported. However, a small number of incidents and shortcomings were reported, including inaccurate supply of ballot papers, incomplete voters lists, and over-crowdedness of some polling stations.

“The organization has improved and I commend the thousands of citizens of BiH, among them a large number of women and young people, for their excellent performance in organizing these elections. Their engagement has strengthened confidence in the electoral process”- said Ruth-Gaby Vermot-Mangold, (SOC-Switzerland), president of the Parliamentary Assembly delegation.

She also added: “ We expect – and in this we share the hopes and expectations of the people of BiH – that the newly elected representatives will fully assume the responsibility for the future of their country. They must depart from narrow nationalism and the policy of confrontation. They must build coalitions capable of making the institutions function according to democratic principles and the respect of human rights. Once that happens, it will open new perspectives for the accession of BiH to the Council of Europe.”

The CLRAE delegation also observed the municipal elections in Srebrenica (RS), and regretted the absence of displaced voters, currently residing in other parts of the country. “The Congress hopes that the people of BiH will soon be capable of managing their own elections without foreign supervision” said Keith Whitmore (UK), leader of the CLRAE delegation.

For more information please contact:

Mrs. Catherine Hügel-Maffucci

Tel. +33-390214165 / Fax. +33-388-412702


Appendix 3: Election results

Final Partial Preliminary Results published by OSCE

HoR of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH from Federation BiH


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted: 858567

HoR of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH from RS


Total Votes





PDP RS-Mladen Ivanic



Coalition SNSD-DSP



Total Votes Counted: 623679

HoR of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted: 862332

National Assembly of the Republika Srpska


Total Votes





SNSD-Milorad Dodik



PDP RS-Mladen Ivanic



Total Votes Counted: 623711

President and Vice President of the Republika Srpska


Total Votes





SNSD-Milorad Dodik



PDP-RS-Mladen Ivanic



Total Votes Counted: 626560

Srebrenica municipality


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted: 13616

Canton 1 - Una-Sana Canton


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted = 98788

Canton 2 – Posavina Canton


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted = 15165

Canton 3 – Tuzla Canton


Total Votes











Total Votes Counted = 154259

Canton 4 – Zenica-Doboj Canton


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted = 147564

Canton 5 – Gorazde Canton


Total Votes











Total Votes Counted = 11094

Canton 6 – Central Bosnia Canton


Total Votes

















Total Votes Counted = 109982

Canton 7 – Herzegovina-Neretva Canton


Total Votes














Total Votes Counted = 106338

Canton 8 – Western Herzegovina Canton


Total Votes





'Radom Za Boljitak"






Total Votes Counted = 28237

Canton 9 – Sarajevo Canton


Total Votes











Total Votes Counted = 151640

Canton 10 (Livno-TomislavGrad Canton)


Total Votes














Hrvatska Krscanska Demokratska Unija-HKDU BiH



Total Votes Counted = 33132