The Central Election Commission finally appeared to be an institution determined to take certain steps and act in accordance with its authority until election night. However, the election night and the days that followed have exposed what the Central Election Commission has actually shown, which is institutional amateurism and the inability of Bosnian society to build a democratic society, where the will of the citizens is fully respected.
If we go in order, we can see that the Central Election Commission made a series of absurd decisions after the election night, failing to punish political entities, individuals, and institutions, despite all the evidence pointing to the classic violations of the Election Law through abuse of position or public resources.
As an example of resource abuse, we took Radio-Television Gradiška, whose operators published a post on their Instagram page on the first day of the election campaign wishing good luck to the candidates of the SNSD, Milorad Dodik and Željka Cvijanović. The post was quickly removed, but a report was sent to Transparency International, which reported everything to the Central Election Commission, where the main motive for the report was the fact that the current director of RTV Gradiška, Rajko Romić, is the husband of the then-candidate, and now a member of parliament, Ranka Perić-Romić (SNSD).
After that, the Central Election Commission requested an explanation from RTV Gradiška, which was quite interesting. In their explanation, RTV Gradiška stated that, like all other parties, they had sent an offer for advertising to the SNSD at the end of August. They then stated that the SNSD was supposed to deposit the money according to the proforma invoice 48 hours before the broadcast of their advertisement. Furthermore, they claimed that the “operator” of RTV Gradiška who handles social media, mistakenly (by accidental click) published the controversial content of the political entity SNSD, which was allegedly prepared for paid advertising. As soon as the editor noticed this post, it was removed after 30 seconds upon his directive.
In their defence, the management of RTV Gradiška argued that director Romić is not a member of the SNSD, which is untrue, considering that he was a councillor of the SNSD in the previous period, later a candidate for councillor, and then replaced by his wife in the fight for votes.
Similarly, RTV Gradiška forgot to mention that they had tagged (mentioned) candidates from Gradiška in the description of the post, which indicates some other kind of coincidence. Apart from that, you don’t have to be a marketing expert to notice the sentence “We wish luck and success to all our candidates”, which is not marketing but a classic eulogy.
All of this was not enough for the Central Election Commission to sanction Radio-television Gradiška. In addition to this decision, an even more absurd situation occurred in the municipality of Ribnik, where posters promoting the SNSD candidates were placed on the house of the president of the Municipal Election Commission. At the 94th session of the Central Election Commission held at the end of last year, a complaint from SDS was considered, which stated that posters of the SNSD were placed on the house of the president of the Municipal Election Commission.
At the 30:47 minute mark of the recorded session, the discussion and decision of the Central Election Commission can be seen, where it was explained that it could not be clearly determined who owns which floor of the house of the president of the MEC, so this complaint was rejected. It is important to note that CEC member, Vanja Prutina Bjelica, voted against this decision, explaining that the president of the MEC Ribnik should have informed the CEC, MEC or taken any actions to prevent this from happening, as this undermined the trust in the Municipal Election Commission in Ribnik, and consequently the CEC. Prutina Bjelica was of the opinion that the president of the MEC Ribnik could have influenced their household members not to put up these posters on the house (see discussion at 39:45 min).
In addition to these decisions of the Central Election Commission (CEC), the misuse of public resources is also concerning, according to Transparency International BiH. Their spokesperson, Srđan Traljić, emphasizes that there have been some improvements, but they are still insufficient for transparent elections.
“We are particularly concerned about the double standard when it comes to campaigning with public funds if you remember the billboards promoting Vlado Đajić through a documentary film on RTRS. The CEC determined that it was not an election campaign, even though he was directly promoted on those billboards during the campaign. If we go back two years to local elections, we had fines from the CEC for the mayor of Banovići and the mayor of Bijeljina, Mićo Mićić, for misuse of public funds”.
Traljić praised the CEC’s decisions regarding the mayor of Laktaši, Miroslav Bojić, who was fined for organising a pre-election rally at the opening of public works. On the other hand, Sanjin Ćetojević, an SDS councillor in Laktaši, claims that these fines are symbolic considering the dozens of abuses that have taken place.
“The Central Election Commission allows all kinds of abuses during the election campaign, condones unprecedented election theft, and then imposes symbolic fines on the participants. There have been dozens of such pre-election rallies in Laktaši, and budget funds have been misused for personal promotion at each one.”
Tanja Topić, a political analyst, shares Ćetojević’s opinion and adds that some political parties knowingly violate rules and regulations during pre-election campaigns.
“Some political parties knowingly violate rules and codes of conduct during campaigns because they know it’s easier for them to pay these laughable and small fines. These fines are disproportionate to the investments and effects they achieve by breaking the rules. The problem is that society and citizens are being sent a message that laws are meant to be broken and that you are a bigger political rogue if you circumvent the rules. To make matters worse, those who participated in drafting these regulations are the ones encouraging their violation, and at the same time, this is an expression of their attitude towards the rule of law“.
The rule of law is far from being upheld also because the results of the control vote count have not been published, which is why the opposition in Republika Srpska has been organising protests for days. The Central Election Commission has only exposed the weakness of institutions and the system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, which calls for certain changes, especially when it comes to the Election Law.