As Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) prepared to go to the polls on Oct. 12, seven prominent civil society organizations from across the country coalesced under the banner of “Pod Lupom – Koalicija za slobodne i postene izbore” (Under the Magnifying Glass – Coalition for Free and Fair Elections) – to mobilize broad-based citizen oversight of the election process.
In fewer than five months, Pod Lupom undertook the most comprehensive and technically proficient election observation ever conducted in BiH, with NDI assistance.
“Data from the field indicate that citizens are familiar with our work, they support it, and are especially pleased that there is an organization that is dealing with the elections in a nonpartisan and independent manner,” said Dzenana Aladuz, a member of Pod Lupom’s steering committee. “This is particularly encouraging because it is coming from small and neglected communities in Bosnia-Herzegovina.”
October’s general elections took place against the backdrop of rampant corruption, stalled reforms and the legacy of inter-ethnic conflict that ravaged the country two decades ago.
Citizens had the opportunity to express their frustrations through the ballot box, deciding races for executive positions and legislative bodies at both national and regional levels. Pop Lupom conducted a parallel vote tabulation -- a citizen observation methodology used to independently verify election results -- to address concerns regarding potential electoral fraud.
Pop Lupom used sample-based observation (SBO), the first time in the country’s history that this statistically valid approach to election monitoring has been used. With the SBO methodology, observers are deployed to a smaller but nationally representative number of polling stations. By establishing a representative sample, citizen observers are able to draw nationwide data on the election process, from the opening of polling stations to voting practices, the closing of stations and ballot tabulation.
Pod Lupom deployed 3,000 observers across the country, compared to 779 observers during the 2010 general elections. The observers were sent to more than 1,400 polling stations and 142 municipal election commissions on election day, along with additional mobile teams traveling to monitor particularly critical stations. Ultimately, 33 percent of all polling stations were covered
Based on its observation, Pod Lupom assessed election day as having taken place in a democratic and fair atmosphere with few irregularities and incidents.
Pop Lupom’s brand of multi-ethnic, nonpartisan activism is critical in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s divided political landscape. The country’s bid to join the European Union has been stalled because of the unwillingness of politicians to agree to reforms of the fractious political system.
Public frustration erupted in February, when thousands of people demonstrated against government inaction, unemployment and corruption. The government’s poor response to May’s devastating floods– which displaced thousands of citizens, destroying property and key infrastructure – compounded the public’s disenchantment with the political establishment. NDI public opinion research this summer revealed that more than 90 percent of citizens feel that the country is heading in the wrong direction. Overwhelming majorities give government low performance marks.
Pod Lupom has shown that citizens are invested in BiH’s democracy, offering a positive model for civic activism, cooperation and oversight. The coalition includes: the Center for Civic Cooperation (CGS), the Center for Civic Initiatives (CCI), DON Prijedor, the Forum of Tuzla Citizens (FGT), Infohouse, Perpetuum Mobile, and the Youth Information Agency (OIA).
NDI supported Pod Lupom as part of a broad-based portfolio of democracy programming. NDI assistance to the coalition was supported with funding from the United States Agency for International Development, the Norwegian Ministry
Published on: Oct. 27, 2014.