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Interview

Visit by The President of Central Election Commission Of BiH Ahmet Santic, 02.06.2015.

 

INTERVIEW: AHMET ŠANTIĆ, PRESIDENT OF CENTRAL ELECTION COMMISSION OF BIH

 

Interviewed by Tarik MOĆEVIĆ

SARAJEVO, June 3 (ONASA) – President of the Central Election Commission (CEC) of BiH Ahmet Šantić in the interview for the Agency ONASA talks, among other things, about irregularities in the work of polling station committees during the General Elections of 2014, the conference “General Elections 2014 – Lessons Learned”, the need for amendments to the BiH Electoral Law…

ONASA: At the end of March you were elected as the President of the BiH Central Election Commission. What are your plans for the mandate, and do you feel that changes are needed in the work of the CEC?

ŠANTIĆ: I should perform the duty of the President of the CEC for 21 month of which two have already passed. Responsibilities of the CEC BiH are explicitly laid down in the BiH Electoral Law and, bearing in mind this fact, there cannot be special activities. Of course, the implementation of the activities defined by the BiH Electoral Law depends and on the President of the CEC. Considering that, together with me, the CEC BiH is made up by six more members, I am the first among equals. Thus says the Electoral Law, and I act in accordance with that. There are seven professionals with years of experience who are doing their job. I myself am working in the CEC BiH already for two and a half years, and I have practical experience in conducting of elections. I was the member of the Electoral Commission of the City of Mostar for seven years and the Municipal Electoral Commission Stari Grad Mostar. In addition to the practical conducting of elections, I am also engaged in the theory, studying electoral systems, and I wrote various publications. I believe that this compound of practical and theoretical activities will help me in the further activities. Currently, there is calm before the local elections to be held next year. We are using this time to carry out the consolidation within the CEC. First of all, we will fill the vacant positions. Also, we will try to complete all of the activities that will help us in the coming election year.

ONASA: CEC BiH at the 32nd session earlier this month adopted the Report on the observed irregularities in the work of polling board members after the polling stations closed at the General Elections in 2014, with the proposal for action determining responsibility. Irregularities were found in the work of electoral committees in the 46 basic constituencies at 88 polling stations. How far along is this process and will there be activities to determine responsibility?

ŠANTIĆ: After every elections, the CEC BiH holds its annual conference at which it analyzes elections. Analysis of the last elections is summarized in a brochure which will soon see the light of the day. It is evident that at the General Elections of 2014, during recounting of votes in the Main Counting Center we have found irregularities which primarily relate to the results of voting in the forms to be filled by electoral committees. We have compiled a full report of all the polling stations where was performed a recount. This report will serve us to launch the procedure for determining possible responsibility of heads or members of electoral committees. So far we have launched the process in two polling stations for a total of ten members of electoral committees. Will sanctions be imposed or otherwise, the suspension of proceedings if during it is determined that there was no violation, we cannot predict. Sanctions for those responsible for irregularities in the work of electoral committees vary in the amount from 300 to 500 BAM.

ONASA: Is there a determined limit of a degree of irregularity after which the legitimacy of the electoral process would be questioned?

ŠANTIĆ: The electoral process in BiH is fully protected by the BiH Electoral Law. CEC BiH, in addition to having the mandate to order the re-counting of ballots, can also annul elections in one or more polling stations in case of irregularities that could affect election result. Thus, every electoral committee is analyzed separately, and results can be waived in some polling boards.

ONASA: CEC BiH, in cooperation with the Association of Election Officials in BiH, in March held a conference “General elections 2014 – lessons learned” at which the elections were analysed, and the final and formulated proposals for the improvement of the overall election process were summarised. What are the conclusions of the conference, what is the assessment after the parliamentary elections of 2014, and have these proposals been formulated?

SANTIC: The conference was organized through three workshops on different topics. Challenges in the electoral process, with an emphasis on invalid ballots and the work of the election administration, was the topic of one workshop, electoral risks of the other, while the third one was about the need for amendments to the Electoral Law. The conference adopted certain conclusions, including amendments of administration, and the appointment of the Chairman and members of the voting committee, as well as their deputies. Then, on the basis of the perceived problems in the financing of the electoral process and the electoral administration, it was proposed that the funds for the conduct of elections to ensure the budgets of institutions and international funding sources. Also, it was concluded that it is necessary to improve the training system, informatisation and the like. The conclusions will be presented to the members of Inter-group which will work on amendments to the Electoral Law.

ONASA: Great attention of the public, after the election, was attracted by the case of candidates who have changed the declaration of ethnicity in relation to 2012. Can you explain to the public the details of the CEC rules when it comes to such cases?

SANTIC: Another issue regulated by the BiH Electoral Law. Declaration on belonging to a constituent people or group of others is used as the basis for the realization of the right to hold an elected or appointed position. In one electoral cycle, for example, when the direct and indirect election to a specific function in the government, candidates may not change the ethnic declaration. I would like to point out that the CEC does not take away anyone’s the right to change the declaration of ethnicity but it conditions the choice of certain functions in the government.

ONASA: Have the steps been taken in order to prevent similar situations in the future?

SANTIC: We apply the provisions of the BiH Electoral Law, which at least partially eliminate the abuse of ethnic declaration of candidates. Maybe we could set up the quality system, but the Parliament of BiH decides on it.

ONASA: Do you think that BiH needs changes to the electoral law, and if so, what are they?

SANTIC: I think that among all those who follow the electoral process, the structures implementing the program and the political entities that participate in it, there is a consensus that it is high time for radical change and reform of the BiH Electoral Law. The electoral law has undergone changes 18 to 19 times already. Such a law is difficult to apply. There are many discrepancies that hinder application of the law. In fact, every law contains substantive material-legal and process-legal norms. Financially-legal norms are those that define the rights and obligations of participants in the electoral process. These are, however, political issues and that a decision should be made by the BiH Parliament. It is a question of constituencies, the electoral law, the number of seats, electoral formula, the magnitude and the like. I would like to stress that I think changes would be good, but I do not want to make untimely assumptions. Central Electoral Commission is participating in the work of the Intergovernmental Group on amendments to the Electoral Law of BiH. We can offer professional help, but we will not propose any solutions. (end)