The first preliminary results from Bosnia & Herzegovina’s central election committee, CIK, show the country’s leading nationalist politicians did better than exit polls indicated immediately after the elections on October 2.
Based on 50% of all votes counted, CIK announced that the winners in the race for the tripartite state-level presidency are the Bosniak Denis Becirovic, the candidate of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Serb Zeljka Cvijanovic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the Croat Borjana Kristo from the centre-right Croat Democratic Party (HDZ).
Meanwhile, the SNSD’s leader Milorad Dodik seems to be the winner of the race for president of Republika Srpska, according to CIK’s preliminary results. Dodik leads ahead of the opposition candidate Jelena Trivic from the centre-right Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) with 48.8% to 42.69% of the votes.
Bosnia is divided into two autonomous entities – the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska plus the autonomous Brcko district. It also consists of three constituent peoples – the Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims), Serbs and Croats.
On October 2, Bosnians voted for members of the state-level tripartite presidency, which includes one representative of each of the constituent peoples, as well as for state-level parliament, local parliaments and the president of Republika Srpska.
For the state-level presidency, the change from exit polls carried out by some political parties on election night is that Kristo is winning ahead of Zeljko Komsic, who is the current Croat member of the presidency. The previous night, it was Komsic who was celebrating victory.
As expected, Bakir Izetbegovic of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) lost the race to become the Bosniak member of the state-level presidency, making him the sole nationalistic leader not to win his seat.
However, Izetbegovic’s SDA did better in the Federation where it won the parliamentary election with over 140,000 votes (24.87%), followed by the coalition HDZ BIH, HSS, HSP BIH, HKDU, HSPAS, HDU, HSPHB, HRAST – which, according to the latest results, achieved 109,743 votes (19.43%). They are followed by the Social Democratic party of Bosnia & Herzegovina (SDP) with 12.42% and the Democratic Front (DF) with 9.49%.
Dodik’s nationalist SNSD also won most of the seats in Republika Srpska’s parliament with 42.44% of the votes, followed by SDS with 18.83%, PDP with 11.17 % and Nebojsa Vukanovic's list with 5.24 %.
Competitive but divisive
Meanwhile, international observers noted that the general election was competitive but the divisive rhetoric and stalled reforms posed concerns.
“The elections took place against the backdrop of ongoing political deadlock and widespread disillusionment with the political establishment, with some key institutions blocked. The largest parties in power have frequently used ethnically divisive rhetoric as the standard form of debate,” the observers noted in a joint statement on October 3.
At the same time, there were cases of pressure on public sector employees. There were also often cases when the secrecy of the vote was often compromised, and there were also cases of unauthorised people keeping track of voters and assisting multiple voters.
“Overall disillusionment towards the political establishment is evident, but I have noticed efforts of a few forward-looking candidates to ignite political and socioeconomic change in the country, which is a positive trend I encourage the newly elected representatives to develop,” Pascal Allizard, special co-ordinator and leader of the OSCE short-term observers, said in the statement.
The statement also noted that, with a few notable exceptions, women did not feature prominently in the campaign, and female candidates “were often targets of insult and ridicule on social networks”.
People’s choice was also limited by the lack of public debate and the use of divisive rhetoric, accompanied by limited and biased media coverage.
“The mission’s media monitoring concluded that most media outlets’ coverage of the campaign was significantly limited,” ambassador Peter Tejler, head of the ODIHR election observation mission, said in the statement.