Local elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday, for the first time under strict epidemiological measures imposed amid the Coronavirus pandemic. As many as 3,283,380 voters had the right to vote at 5,759 polling stations. Voters were electing 64 municipal councils in the FBiH, 56 municipal assemblies in the RS, 120 heads of municipalities in BiH, seven city assemblies in the RS, 14 city councils in the FBiH, 22 city mayors in BiH and the Brcko District Assembly.

According to latest available data Published by the Central Election Commission, 50 percent of the registered voters voted in the 2020 local elections. Voter turnout in the FBIH was 47 percent, and in the RS 55 percent. Voter turnout in Brcko District was 45 percent. The highest turnout was registered in Istocni Mostar Municipality, where 87.20 percent of voters cast their ballots. The lowest voter turnout of only 23.75 percent was registered in Usora Municipality. For comparison, voter turnout in 2016 local elections was 53.88 percent.

The election brought unexpected surprises in several local communities, mostly urban centers. The opposition coalition ‘The Four’ consisting of four parties (‘People and Justice’, ‘Our Party’, “Independent Bosnian-Herzegovinian List’ and ‘Social-Democratic Party) overwhelmingly won seats of Head of Municipality in almost all municipalities in Sarajevo Canton. These offices have traditionally been held by SDA for majority of the past two decades.

Candidate of the oppositional ‘Party of Democratic Progress’ Drasko Stanivukovic won against Banja Luka Mayor Igor Radojicic. Radojicic is a high-ranking official of the ‘Union of Independent Social-Democrats’ led by Milorad Dodik, and he enjoyed the support of seven other smaller parties close to Dodik. However, Stanivukovic convincingly won more votes and declared victory.

Another surprise came in Bijeljina, where Mico Micic lost after several tenures as Mayor, despite strong support of Dodik’s party. He will be replaced by Ljubisa Petrovic, joint candidate of Serb ‘Democratic Party’ and ‘Party of Democratic Progress’.

Situation remains uncertain in Srebrenica. Due to different views on the events that occurred in Srebrenica in July 1995, and the problem of return of displaced persons, Srebrenica is a local community of special interest for most political parties. The main contenders in Srebrenica were two candidates – incumbent Head of Municipality Mladen Grujicic who ran again as joint candidate of Serb parties, and Alija Tabakovic who ran as joint candidate of Bosniak parties. Both Grujicic and Tabakovic declared victory on Sunday evening. However, the final results of election in this municipality will not be known until all absentee and mail ballots have been counted.

The voting process was also troubled by numerous reports on violation of election rules. Central Election Commission received 116 complains. The election observer coalition ‘Pod lupom’ registered over 160 cases of severe violation of the election process. Many citizens who are in isolation due to coronavirus were unable to vote because they either could not register for a visit of the polling station mobile team because they did not have proof of isolation, or they registered but the mobile team failed to show up. Opposition parties in Doboj claim that their observers were not allowed to enter polling stations and they demand a repeated vote.

A curiosity happened in Travnik, where ‘Democratic Action Party’ candidate Mirsad Peco passed away on election day after contracting coronavirus. However, he won more than 40 percent of votes and thus technically won the election. The Central Election Commission still does not know how to handle this situation, because the Election Law does not recognize the possibility of a candidate dying on election day. The Commission announced that it will ask for opinion of relevant local and international institutions, inducing OSCE.