2022 Bosnian General Elections: What Kind of a Change?

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Bosnia and Herzegovina has an almost unprecedented political system posed by the Dayton Agreement. This complicated political system brings along many challenges. One of those challenges is the elections held in the country. On October 2, 2022, the Presidency Council of Bosnia and Herzegovina went to the polls to determine the Bosniak, Croat, and Serb members of the Presidency. While voting for the Presidency Council as well as the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina; members have been elected for the parliaments of the two entities, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS), and the parliaments in ten cantons within FBiH. In addition to that, voters went to the polls in RS for president and vice president in RS.

According to the system, voters in FBiH elected the members of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the House of Representatives of the FBiH, and the cantonal parliaments; voters in the RS voted for the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, the RS Presidency, and the RS vice Presidency. On the other hand, while FBiH citizens voted for the Bosniak and Croat members of the Presidency, RS citizens went to the polls to determine the Serbian member. The participation of ninety parties in this election process creates a further entanglement.

According to the statement made by the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina (CEC BiH), the voter turnout in this election is 50%.[1] Compared to past elections, this is a low rate. Because the voter turnout in 2018 was 54.02%; this rate was 54.47% in 2014 and 56.52% in 2010. Taking these ratios into account, one may observe that voter turnout is on a downward trend. This could be explained by the emigration of Bosnians. One should also mention the important factor that voters who do not believe in the elections and lose their hope do not go to the polls.

According to the statement made by (CEC BiH), Bosniak member Denis Becirovic, Croatian member Zeljko Komsic, and Serbian member Zeljka Cvijanovic were elected to the Presidency Council. In the parliamentary elections, the tradition was not broken and the three ethnic parties, the Democratic Action Party (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH), and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), received the highest votes in the parliamentary elections.

It is known that the High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, announced that he would impose changes to the Election Law shortly before the elections and that these amendments would be in favour of ethnic parties of Croatian origin. This created a lot of tension in the country. On the other hand, Milorad Dodik, who rose to prominence with his separatist rhetoric and is known for his closeness to Russian President Vladimir Putin, constantly emphasised the RS’s independence, raising tensions during the election.  However, observing the preliminary results of the elections according to the ballot box opened by almost 90%, one may comment that elections have been quieter than the previous years, considering past elections with fake voter lists, corruption, and allegations of vote stealing.

Even though it is claimed that there have been various violations during the elections, these violations have been detected in time and necessary action has been taken with the devoted work of the Pod Lupom organization. According to Pod Lupom’s statement, 91 violations affecting the electoral process have been reported. In addition to the party and independent observers, international observers were also assigned to the elections.[2] Taking into consideration the comments of these observers, a positive perspective emerges. The general opinion is that new technologies to be used on election day should be introduced to Bosnia and the quality of the election should be increased. Since, despite many precautions, the number of violations is quite high. As in previous elections, it has been noted that there are people who have passed away in the voter files. However, the implementation of a semi-open system, with the back of the voter facing the observer instead of the booth, during the voting process assisted with detecting possible violations.

Observing the election results, one may argue that the politics of Bosnia and Herzegovina bears witness to a “beginning.” This beginning points to a serious change, but positively projecting this change depends on the attitude of the politicians. On the other hand, the defeat of SDA candidate Bakir Izzetbegovic, who was running for the Bosniak member of the Presidency, sparked heated debate. Furthermore, Zeljko Komsic’s rally may exacerbate tensions between Croats and Bosniaks. In addition, as soon as the polls closed, Schmidt’s introduction of a new change to the election law elicited reactions.

Contrary to expectations, the elections, which were expected to be tense, were completed in a calm atmosphere. The measures taken against violations, are promising for Bosnian politics. Indeed, the voters who went to the polls stuck in a limbo of hope and hopelessness were pleased with the results as there were no significant issues to criticize at the polls in Sarajevo. Looking at the results, Bosnian voters saw that their votes were effective and that they could affect change in a democratic setting.

Bosnia and Herzegovina, on the other hand, is on the verge of a new beginning. It is a significant development that two members of the Presidential Council were not elected from an ethnic party. However, three major parties continue to hold seats in parliament. Some comments claim that the fates of SDA, HDZ BiH, and SNSD are intertwined. Based on recent events, it is clear that maintaining the status quo is in these parties’ best interests. As a result, even though the country is on the verge of a new beginning, significant change is unlikely.

Finally, it should be noted that the newly elected members of the Presidency face difficult days ahead as it is unclear to what extent they will be able to reflect changes in domestic politics on the regional stability. However, Becirovic and Komsic’s statements are aimed at increasing cooperation and ensuring long-term stability. However, only time will tell whether they are successful, especially given the High Representative’s controversial actions, who is keeping a close eye on the processes, and at a time when hate speech is on the rise.

[1] “Opći izbori 2022- Preliminarni odziv sa redovnih biračkih mjesta”, Centralna izborna komisija BiH,, (Date of Accession: 04.10.2022).

[2] “Koalicija “Pod lupom”: Preliminarna ocjena izbornog dana za Opšte izbore 2022. godine” Pod Lupom, , (Date of Accession: 04.10.2022).

Mustafa Çuhadar, İstanbul Üniversitesi Edebiyat Fakültesi İngiliz Dili ve Edebiyatı Bölümü mezunudur. Lisans döneminde disiplinlerarası çalışmalarına ağırlık veren Çuhadar'ın başlıca çalışma alanları, Balkanlar ve İstihbarat çalışmalarıdır. 2021 yılında Ankara Üniversitesi Türk İnkılap Tarihi Enstitüsü’nde yüksek lisans eğitimine başlayan Çuhadar, halihazırda Bosna Hersek’teki siyasi partileri inceleyen yüksek lisans tezini hazırlamaktadır. Çuhadar, iyi derecede İngilizce, Boşnakça, Hırvatça ve Sırpça ve temel seviyede Almanca bilmektedir.