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May the transparent election theft begin

November 09, 2020
tags:#election, #Investigative journalism, #EU
located:Bosnia and Herzegovina
by:Katarina Panić
"I used to be paid BAM 100 (EUR 50) as a member of the polling station. I passed all the training and exams. On the day of the election, I was working from 7 am to 7 pm. I supposed to do all night long additionally, but a man appeared and offered BAM 300 to give him my place and go home, and he will fix everything with my superiors. I did so; he is a kind of guy you don't want to have a problem with", a young man told FairPlanet. He, like many other characters from this story, insisted on anonymity.

A fifth of the new millennium is behind us, and Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral managing process is still mostly analogue. The less digital the system, the easier it is to manipulate; it's also easier to defraud and intimidate voters. Although the ability to hold free and fair elections is considered a top priority by the European Commission (which holds sway over Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH's) application for EU membership, the ruling ethnic-nationalist parties still successfully resist the reform of the electoral legislation.

"I didn't report what happened. No one asked me anything afterwards. It was my first elections two years go. This time they called me again to be a polling station worker. I accepted. If the same thing happens, I think I'll do the same. It is not on me to change the world", a young man from the beginning of the story concluded.

Theft is the most transparent way the current electoral system is violated. Far away from cutting-edge technology, politicians have relentlessly used a wide range of various and colourful methods over the decades. FairPlanet already wrote about one of them. Due to the upcoming local elections (Nov 15), now is the time to introduce some others.


"We asked our prominent members to provide people they trust the most. So we got 12 names. We gave them money and referred them to the procedure of how to register as independent candidates. Once they are in, we gain all their seats on the boards that oversee polling stations. One of these fictional candidates is our highly ranked candidate's daughter. We were not happy with that. Indeed, they do not have the same surnames. Still, this is a small town", a ruling political party member told FairPlanet.

He lives in the city with some 83,000 voters and 65 registered political subjects. The voters never heard of the majority of them. To comparison, local parliament has 31 seats with seven parties that reached the census on the previous election four years ago.

"We believe we have more phantom political subjects than authentic ones. Research shows that as many as 70 percent of registered political entities do not aim to get votes in elections. I wonder how many votes these parties and independent candidates received in the polls, i.e. whether they at least voted for themselves ", said Dario Jovanović of the Pod Lupom Coalition, an election monitoring organisation.


"My husband was an MP and a candidate four years ago. He appointed his godfather to the observing board. A night before the election, his phone rang. An unknown person told him not to come to polling station tomorrow nor to answer the phone for the next 24 hours, and, if by chance, someone comes to his home to see what happened, he should pretend to be sick. You may guess, my husband wasn't reelected", a woman told FairPlanet.

Once the incumbent parties end the trading and exchanging of seats and achieve the dominance on the boards, the election rig may start. Their members usually have two assignments: to add crosses to ballot papers for their party's candidates and to spoil ballot papers that favour other parties' candidates. They can do whatever they want, even completely invent the election results. In the previous election, up to 15 percent of votes were invalidated at some places, comparing with around one percent norm.

A part of electoral engineering is changing the residential address. It is often more than up to five percent, which would be acceptable.

"I met a guy in a betting shop long ago. He offered me to pay BAM 100 to vote for him. I had to change all my documents because he lives in a neighbouring municipality. So, I live where I always lived. I never vote here, but there. He participates in every election. It has lasted over a decade. No one ever asked me about it ", a man in his 50s told FairPlanet.


The number of some 130,000 citizens registered to vote outside the country has almost doubled since the general election two years ago. The Central Election Commission rejected some 28,000. Out of 101,000 voters confirmed to cast ballots abroad, some 27,500 are in Serbia, 19,100 in Croatia, 17,700 in Germany and 9,600 in Austria.

Sarajevo-based investigative journalist Avdo Avdić went to Serbia to check some addresses where whole groups of Bosnian citizens reportedly were registered for postal voting. One of them was a butcher shop. He found the owner of the shop in her car and asked her about it. She said that she only does favours for people who need to receive something by post such as packages, so why not also the ballot papers? Asked why not with their real addresses, why use the butcher shop since they don't live there, she answered: "neither do I."

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Embed from Getty Images
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral managing process is still mostly analogue.
Embed from Getty Images
The less digital the system, the easier it is to manipulate; it's also easier to defraud and intimidate voters.
Embed from Getty Images
Theft is the most transparent way the current electoral system is violated.
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