Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Report 16 / Europe & Central Asia

Elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina

On 13 August the International Crisis Group monitoring the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) issued a report calling for the postponement of the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the grounds that the minimum conditions for a free and fair poll did not exist.

Executive Summary

On 13 August the International Crisis Group monitoring the implementation of the Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA) issued a report calling for the postponement of the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina on the grounds that the minimum conditions for a free and fair poll did not exist. Although this call was partly answered by the decision of the Organisation for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) to postpone municipal elections because of the blatant manipulation of the registration of refugee voters in the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia and the Republic of Croatia, the OSCE did not regard this as sufficient reason for postponing the general elections. On 14 September the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina voted in multi-party elections for the first time since 1990. However, the Parties to the DPA (the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and its two constituent entities - the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska) had not created the minimum conditions for elections: repatriation and reintegration of refugees had not begun; indicted war criminals continued to exert influence behind the scenes; and freedom of movement and expression remained severely restricted. Under such handicaps the elections were bound to confirm the effective division of the country on ethnic lines and that proved to be so.

Events on the day showed that many thousands of voters were prevented from casting their ballot. Some were disenfranchised beforehand because of technical errors in the registration process; others were disenfranchised on the day through errors in the voter lists; yet others failed to cross the Inter-Entity Boundary Line (IEBL) to vote because of fears for their security, confusion over transport arrangements and restrictions on seeing their former homes; and some did not see any reason to cross the IEBL because the municipal elections had been cancelled. By contrast, tens of thousands of Serb refugees were bussed into Republika Srpska from the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia to vote where instructed or lose their refugee status and benefits.

Analysis of the preliminary results from the elections suggests that there was a serious discrepancy between the overall voter population and the number of ballots cast. It would seem that there was a turn- out of over 100%.  This calls in question the validity of the results.

On the basis of this failure to achieve the required conditions  for holding the elections, disenfranchisement, electoral engineering, and the preliminary vote count results, the 14 September elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot be considered free and fair as required by the DPA.

This report describes the recent historical context and analyses the campaign, the conduct and the outcome of the elections.

Sarajevo, 22 September 1996

Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.

The Western Balkans, a region defined in part by not being in the European Union, also contains several countries that were devastated by war in the 1990s. Now it faces new troubles, driven in part by the legacies of the old. Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted with calls for secession in the autonomous Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska, as well as the ongoing electoral grievances of its Croat minority. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve Kosovo’s dispute with Serbia over its independence have come to a standstill, leaving minority communities on both sides of the border vulnerable.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Consulting Senior Analyst for the Balkans, about why ethnic tensions persist in the region and whether there is any risk of a return to conflict. They discuss the prospects for European integration, asking whether the promise of EU membership remains an effective incentive for resolving these longstanding disputes. They also consider what impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had for stability in the Western Balkans, a region where painful memories of war are still very salient today.



Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, make sure to check out our Balkans regional page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report on the risk of instability in the Western Balkans.

Subscribe to Crisis Group’s Email Updates

Receive the best source of conflict analysis right in your inbox.