Electoral/Political Party Reform: General Framework Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina

THE GENERAL FRAMEWORK AGREEMENT: ANNEX 3

Agreement on Elections

In order to promote free, fair, and democratic elections and to lay the foundation for representative government and ensure the progressive achievement of democratic goals throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, in accordance with relevant documents of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Republika Srpska ("the Parties") have agreed as follows:

Article I: Conditions for Democratic Elections

1. The Parties shall ensure that conditions exist for the organization of free and fair elections, in particular a politically neutral environment; shall protect and enforce the right to vote in secret without fear or intimidation; shall ensure freedom of expression and of the press; shall allow and encourage freedom of association (including of political parties); and shall ensure freedom of movement.

2. The Parties request the OSCE to certify whether elections can be effective under current social conditions in both Entities and, if necessary, to provide assistance to the Parties in creating these conditions.

3. The Parties shall comply fully with paragraphs 7 and 8 of the OSCE Copenhagen Document, which are attached to this Agreement.

Article II: The OSCE Role

1. OSCE. The Parties request the OSCE to adopt and put in place an elections program for Bosnia and Herzegovina as set forth in this Agreement.

2. Elections. The Parties request the OSCE to supervise, in a manner to be determined by the OSCE and in cooperation with other international organizations the OSCE deems necessary, the preparation and conduct of elections for the House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina; for the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina; for the House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina; for the National Assembly of the Republika Srpska; for the Presidency of the Republika Srpska; and, if feasible, for cantonal legislatures and municipal governing authorities.

3. The Commission. To this end, the Parties request the OSCE to establish a Provisional Election Commission ("the Commission").

4. Timing. Elections shall take place on a date ("Election Day") six months after entry into force of this Agreement or, if the OSCE determines a delay necessary, no later than nine months after entry into force.

Article III: The Provisional Election Commission

1. Rules and Regulations. The Commission shall adopt electoral rules and regulations regarding: the registration of political parties and independent candidates; the eligibility of candidates and voters; the role of domestic and international election observers; the ensuring of an open and fair electoral campaign; and the establishment, publication, and certification of definitive election results. The Parties shall comply fully with the electoral rules and regulations, any internal laws and regulations notwithstanding.

2. Mandate of the Commission. The responsibilities of the Commission, as provided in the electoral rules and regulations, shall include:

a.) supervising all aspects of the electoral process to ensure that the structures and institutional framework for free and fair elections are in place;

b.) determining voter registration provisions;

c.) ensuring compliance with the electoral rules and regulations established pursuant to this Agreement;

d.) ensuring that action is taken to remedy any violation of any provision of this Agreement or of the electoral rules and regulations established pursuant to this Agreement, including imposing penalties against any person or body that violates such provisions; and

e.) accrediting observers, including personnel from international organizations and foreign and domestic non-governmental organizations, and ensuring that the Parties grant accredited observers unimpeded access and movement.

3. Composition and Functioning of the Commission. The Commission shall consist of the Head of the OSCE Mission, the High Representative or his or her designee, representatives of the Parties, and such other persons as the Head of the OSCE Mission, in consultation with the Parties, may decide. The Head of the OSCE Mission shall act as Chairman of the Commission. In the event of disputes within the Commission, the decision of the Chairman shall be final.

4. Privileges and Immunities. The Chairman and Commission shall enjoy the right to establish communications facilities and to engage local and administrative staff, and the status, privileges and immunities accorded to a diplomatic agent and mission under the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations.

Article IV: Eligibility

1. Voters. Any citizen of Bosnia and Herzegovina aged 18 or older whose name appears on the 1991 census for Bosnia and Herzegovina shall be eligible, in accordance with electoral rules and regulations, to vote. A citizen who no longer lives in the municipality in which he or she resided in 1991 shall, as a general rule, be expected to vote, in person or by absentee ballot, in that municipality, provided that the person is determined to have been registered in that municipality as confirmed by the local election commission and the Provisional Election Commission. Such a citizen may, however, apply to the Commission to cast his or her ballot elsewhere. The exercise of a refugee's right to vote shall be interpreted as confirmation of his or her intention to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina. By Election Day, the return of refugees should already be underway, thus allowing many to participate in person in elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The Commission may provide in the electoral rules and regulations for citizens not listed in the 1991 census to vote.

Article V: Permanent Election Commission

The Parties agree to create a permanent Election Commission with responsibilities to conduct future elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Implementation History

1995

No Implementation

No information was available.

1996

Minimum Implementation

According to the Dayton Accord, on 30 January 1996, the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE) set up the Provisional Election Commission.1 According to the Peace Agreement, elections should be held between 14 June and 14 September. The OSCE monitored the elections.

Elections took place on 14 September 1996, which set up most of the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). The new parliament was expected to work on election law, which did not happen in 1996. Also, the establishment of the permanent election commission was yet to take place.

1997

Minimum Implementation

No election law was passed. The permanent election commission had not yet been established. The municipal elections took place in 1997.

1998

Minimum Implementation

No election law was passed. The permanent election commission had not yet been established.

1999

Minimum Implementation

The Office of the High Representative (OHR) was very much involved in drafting electoral law. It was reported that the draft law was supported by the Serbian government but the major Muslim party called it legalizing cleansing.2 No election law was adopted in 1999.

  • 2. “Government supports Bosnia's draft election law 'in principle,' Bosnia's main Muslim party says draft election law legalizes ethnic cleansing,” BBC Monitoring Europe, December 16, 1999.
2000

Minimum Implementation

No election law was passed in 2000, but the political party financing law was adopted in July 2000.3 Parties again failed to establish the permanent election commission.

However, the OSCE altered the electoral rules in the Federation of BiH a month before the 2000 elections, resulting in the revolt of the Croat political parties and proclamation of Croat interim autonomy until the changes were revised.4

  • 3. Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina, accessed May 4, 2011, http://www.izbori.ba/documents/ENG/Law/Law_on_Political_Party_Financing.pdf.
  • 4. Roland Kostic, “Ambivalent Peace: External Nation-building, Threatened Identity and Reconciliation in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” (PhD diss., Uppsala University, 2007), p. 85; Roland Kostic, “Reconciling the Past and the Present: Evaluating Dayton Peace Accords 1995,” Department of Peace and Conflict Research, Uppsala University and the Mediation Support Unit, United Nations Department of Political Affairs (2009): 30-40.
2001

Full Implementation

The Parliamentary Assembly of BiH, in the session of the House of Representatives on 21 August 2001 and in the session of the House of People on 23 August 2001, adopted election law.5 The election commission was established by this law. Once the election commission was established, the Provisional Election Commission (PEC) ceased to exist. Election law was adopted and the election commission was established in 2001.

  • 5. “Bosnia: Speaker of upper house says adoption of Election Law very important,” BBC Monitoring Europe, August 23, 2001.
2002

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2003

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2004

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.

2005

Full Implementation

No further developments observed.