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Bosnia and Herzegovina

Section 3. Freedom to Participate in the Political Process

The constitution and the law provide citizens the ability to choose their government in free and fair periodic elections based on universal and equal suffrage. Citizens generally exercised this right, but observers noted a number of shortcomings.

Elections and Political Participation

Recent Elections: General elections held in 2014 were competitive with candidates and political parties freely campaigning and presenting their programs. According to ODIHR, the Central Election Commission (CEC) administered the elections efficiently, but other international observers provided numerous, credible descriptions of political parties manipulating the makeup of the polling station committees, which endangered the integrity of the election process. There were also reports of problems with the counting process due to inadequate knowledge of appropriate procedures among polling station committee members. According to ODIHR, the campaign finance regulatory system was not adequate to assure the transparency, integrity, and accountability of election processes. Municipal elections held in October 2016 were assessed by election monitors from a coalition of local NGOs as having been conducted overall in accordance with electoral law.

Political Parties and Political Participation: Some leaders of smaller political parties complained that the larger parties enjoyed a virtual monopoly over government ministries, public services, and media outlets, where membership in a dominant party was a prerequisite for advancement.

Participation of Women and Minorities: Although no laws limit the participation of women in the political process, the country’s patriarchal culture tended to restrict active women’s participation in political affairs. While the law requires that at least 40 percent of a political party’s candidates be women, women held only 23 of 152 ministerial seats at the state level. Women won election to 13 percent (two out of 15) of the positions in the country’s House of Peoples and two of the nine ministerial positions in the country’s Council of Ministers.

The law provides that Serbs, Croats, and Bosniaks, whom the constitution considers the “constituent peoples” of the country, as well as undefined “others,” must be adequately represented at all levels. The government did not respect this requirement. Apart from the three constituent peoples, the country’s 16 recognized national minority groups remained significantly underrepresented in government. There were no members of a minority group in the state-level parliament. The government made no effort to implement changes required by ECHR rulings dating back to 2009 that the country’s constitution discriminates against “others,” such as Jews and Roma, by preventing them from running for the presidency and seats in the parliament’s upper house. On June 10, the ECHR ruled in favor of Ilijaz Pilav, a Bosniak surgeon from Srebrenica, who sued the state when the CEC denied him certification as a candidate for the country’s presidency in both 2006 and 2010. The ECHR unanimously ruled that the state violated the European Convention on Human Rights by discriminating against Pilav and ordered it to pay him 6,600 euros ($7,300). The government also failed to implement a 2014 ECHR ruling in favor of Azra Zornic, who had been found ineligible to run for the country’s presidency and the House of Peoples because she refused to declare affiliation with any particular ethnic group.

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U.S. Department of State

The Lessons of 1989: Freedom and Our Future