In Sunday’s elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, according to unofficial exit polls, moderate Bosniak and Croat leaders were set to win seats on the three-member Bosnian presidency, while Bosnian Serb strong-man Milorad Dodik’s right hand and planned successor for the post of Serbian member of the presidency, Zeljka Cvijanovic, will likely become a first woman member of the presidency.
Zeljko Komsic, the current Croat member of the presidency, was set to win a new mandate in the collective head of state after winning more than 70 per cent of the votes, well ahead of the next Croat candidate, Borjana Kristo, according to the unofficial results.
“As things stand now, it is quite clear not only who will be in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, but also what the government will look like, at least judging by the structure of those elected to the parliaments,” Komsic told media on Sunday evening.
Denis Becirovic, a candidate of the moderate Social Democratic Party, SDP, was in the lead for the Bosniak post on the presidency. Becirovic, one of three candidates for the post, is in the lead with almost 57 per cent of the votes cast, ahead of the veteran Bosniak leader, Bakir Izetbegovic, candidate of the Party of Democratic Action, SDA.
Since Bosnia gained independence, the SDA has only lonce not held the Bosniak post on the presidency, in the 2006-10 mandate.
“How can you expect to win when 11 parties are against you? If there was nine of them, I could easily win, but with 11 I couldn’t,” Izetbegovic said, admitting defeat.
Meanwhile, in a surprise move, made minutes after most polling stations closed, the High Representative to Bosnia, Christian Schmidt, used his executive so-called “Bonn-powers” to impose controversial changes to the country’s election law.
The election law has been a thorn in Bosnia’s side for more than a decade, with dozens rounds of failed consultations.
The new intervention changes the election law by raising the number of representatives in the Federation entity’s House of Peoples and the way they are chosen. The changes also include the deadline for the formation of the government after the election, as well as measures to ensure the functionality of the Bosniak and Croat-dominated Federation entity.
Schmidt, whose task is to oversee implementation of the 1995 peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war, also imposed changes to the Constitution of the Federation entity, ensuring the functionality of its constitutional court and the selection process of the judges.
The US Embassy to Bosnia welcomed Schmidt’s move, saying that it would “bolster the stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina … This action was both urgent and necessary,” the embassy said.
eeThe British ambassador, Julian Reilly, also supported the OHR’s decision, while saying that “it is a source of regret that the powers of the High Representative continue to be needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
The election process was marred by numerous, minor irregularities. The Coalition for Free and Fair Elections “Pod Lupom”, an umbrella organisation of more than 80 civil society organisations which monitored the elections, recorded 73 breaches of the election law by 4.30 pm.
One voting station in the capital Sarajevo was closed for two hours due to the sudden death of a voter, so will be allowed to stay open to compensate for the lost time.
Another voting station in Hozici, close to Bosanski Novi in the Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, closed after five people were detained, suspected of bringing pre-filled ballots, so elections will be repeated there.
Bosnians are electing a new state parliament, assemblies in the two entities, ten cantonal assemblies within the Federation and the three-member state presidency.
Three seats are up for election on on the state presidency, 42 for the state parliament, 98 for the assembly of the Federation entity, 83 for the assembly of Republika Srpska and three for the president and vice-presidents of Republika Srpska.
Some 3.3 million voters, slightly more than the official number of population, were eligible to vote at the 14th elections since 1996, when the first post-war elections were held.
However, according to the Central Electoral Commission, CEC, only 50 per cent of Bosnians voted in the 5,904 polling stations.