Agora Election Observation Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina 2022 – Preliminary Statement
Agora Election Observation is a non-governmental non-profit organisation whose mandate is fostering a democratic, participatory, diverse, equal, and transnational Europe committed to human rights. In particular, the organisation aims to train young people as international election observers and report on youth participation in elections in Europe. This is done by deploying young people themselves on election observation missions.
Agora Election Observation deployed 20 observers of 11 nationalities from Europe and North America across Bosnia and Herzegovina to observe the 02 October 2022 General Elections. In addition to the Election Day observation, the mission was complemented by numerous activities in line with Agora Election Observation methodology to promote a democratic, participatory, diverse, equal, and transnational Europe.
The 2022 General Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina included the election of the three-member state Presidency, as well as national, entity, and cantonal governments. Agora observers covered five cantons including the cities of Sarajevo, East Sarajevo, Mostar, Zenica, Tuzla, Novi Travnik, and Gornji Vakuf. In total, 113 polling stations were visited: the preparation and opening process was observed in 10 polling stations, 106 polling stations were visited throughout the voting process, and 11 were visited to observe the closing and counting procedure.
Bosnian authorities were generally well-prepared for hosting international observers and were perceived as cooperative e.g. providing information about accreditation procedures prior to election day. At the polling stations visited by Agora Election Observation, domestic and international organisations were encountered – a large number of which were political party observers. Electoral administration bodies conducted detailed voter educational, motivational, and information campaigns, both through traditional and social media, including Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube, with the specific goal of higher voter turnout among young people in the country.
The overall environment on election day was assessed as calm and free of tension. The polling staff members were perceived as cooperative and professional and had a good understanding of voting procedures. Voting and counting processes were visible and open to Agora observers at all stages. No significant unrest was observed in or around the polling stations visited. However, in a few cases, unauthorised campaign activities and party advertising were recorded in the immediate vicinity of the polling stations.
Young people and women were very well represented in the polling stations visited, assessing that 45% of the polling station committee were 30 years old or younger and that in 47% of the cases the president was 35 years old or younger. Approximately 53% of the polling station members and half of the presidents in the polling stations visited by Agora observers were female.
Almost all polling stations observed opened and closed on time. Election Day was overall well administered by the Election Management Bodies, and the procedures for opening, closing, and counting at the observed polling stations were generally followed properly.
Nonetheless, some aspects can be considered for further improvements. On some occasions, the ballot papers were pre-stamped and pre-signed, and/or placed unfolded into the ballot boxes. Group and family voting was also observed, which could not be justified as assisted voting. Access to polling stations proved to be particularly difficult for people with disabilities, with 56 % of polling stations visited reported as not barrier-free. In some cases, partisan observers were interfering in the counting process by actively participating in the vote count.
The layout and equipment of the polling stations were considered suitable, and voters seemed mostly to be well-informed about the electoral procedures. In cases of uncertainties, the polling station committees always provided adequate support.