COVID-19 and fears of fraud threaten to undermine local elections on Sunday in Bosnia and Herzegovina, though some see hope in signs of greater competition in the country’s two biggest cities and the end to a 12-year legal dispute in a third.
Procedural problems mean electoral authorities have had just three months, rather than the usual five, to prepare the polls, their job made more difficult by the logistical problems thrown up by the coronavirus pandemic and a surge in applications – some of them fraudulent – for votes abroad.
“This will be the most problematic election since the war in Bosnia and pandemic is one of the reasons,” said Tanja Topic, a political analyst in the northern Bosnian city of Banja Luka, seat of the country’s mainly Serb-populated Republika Srpska entity.
“The pandemic affected the campaign, and will affect the conduct of the elections.”
Electoral authorities have rejected a record number of applications for absentee ballots from abroad, many of them, according to media reports, falsified.
Some Bosnians, nevertheless, have been encouraged by opinion polls pointing to more competitive races among Bosniaks in the capital, Sarajevo, and Serbs in Banja Luka.