Global Elections Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina
“Promoting women’s participation in elections”
The Central Election Commission of BiH has in cooperation with the Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Agency for Gender Equality organized an event to promote the initiative mark the Global Elections Day in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The event took place on February 2, 2017 in Hotel “Hills” Sarajevo and was dedicated to “Promoting women’s participation in elections”.
The event brought together 56 participants – representatives of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, Government of Brčko District of BiH, Committee on Gender Equality of the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly, BiH Ministry for Human Rights and Refugees, Agency for gender equality of BiH, members of Coordination board for implementation of Gender Action Plan of BiH, municipal mayors, speakers of the municipal assemblies, representatives of municipal election commissions, representatives of the OSCE Mission to BiH, non-government sector and the media.
Dr. Irena Hadžiabdić, president of the BiH Central Election Commission and Semiha Borovac, minister for human rights and refugees delivered short introduction speeches.
Dr. Hadžiabdić informed the participants about the history behind the initiative to mark the Global Elections Day and underlined that in our efforts we primarily expect support of the United Nations, since it was actually the UN Declaration of Human Rights declared the right to vote as a basic human right in 1948. “The theme of today's event, which is dedicated to the global topic “Promoting women's participation in elections”, deserves a special place in the BiH society although the participation of women on the BiH political scene is on the rise, we cannot be satisfied. That is why we want to send a message today that everyone, both men and women, should have equal rights and opportunities that will be established and implemented not only through legislation, education, political and economic systems, but also the elections. Bosnia and Herzegovina needs to do more so that women could exercise equal rights and opportunities, as voters, candidates, and elected officials. Bosnia and Herzegovina does not need an illusion of equality”, said dr. Hadžiabdić.
In her speech the minister Semiha Borovac said that the equal participation of women and men in political and public life represents one of the conditions of democracy. Equality and the ability to elect and be elected through elections, to participate equally in the division of functions of government, in public bodies and committees, to represent the government at the international level and to have equal rights in the political arena are formally and legally ensured to women in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Effects of legal and policy measures to increase the participation and influence of women in public and political life are visible, but there is still a phenomenon that percentage of women is reduced by increased level of decision-making position. The participation of women in legislative and executive authorities at all levels is about 20%, which places Bosnia and Herzegovina among the European average. At the last 2016 Local Elections, only six per cent of the candidates for mayor were women, and their percentage on the lists for municipal or city councils was 41 percent, which is only one percent more than the legal minimum.
Ultimately, the number of elected female mayors increased from 5 to 6, and there was a slight increase of women's representation in municipal and city councils or assemblies. All this is not sufficient to say that there is equal gender representation. Although the Election Law is fully harmonized with the Law on Gender Equality in BiH, which requires mandatory participation of 40 percent of the under-represented gender, in this case women, the electorate still rather votes for men. This is the consequence of the lack of female politicians at the decision-making positions, but also of stereotypes about position of women and men in BiH society, especially in the politics. This is a process that takes time, but the time in which we cannot wait for things to happen by themselves, but the time in which we must use all legal possibilities to realize the right of gender equality. Women's participation in politics largely depends on their courage and willingness to enter politics and to be active, and they should be encouraged to do so. Women need to get a better position and representation within their political parties. Political parties must show an interest and willingness to ensure greater participation of women in political bodies, and later on also in bodies of authority. They must also invest more in their promotion because women are almost invisible in election campaigns which often demotivating for women candidates and for those who would like to become candidates. It certainly has an impact on the final decision of voters in the elections. Bosnia and Herzegovina has a large number of educated, good and capable women, to whom we need to give confidence, encouraging them to get involved in all areas of social and political life. Full result can be achieved only by a joint action with the male counterparts - because joint action on the principle of equality is the key to success.
Minister Borovac expressed satisfaction that the initiative for marking the Global Elections Day is promoted by the Central Election Commission, the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees with the Agency for Gender Equality and the Committee on Gender Equality of the House of Representatives of the BiH Parliamentary Assembly. These partnerships are a guarantee that the gender equality in Bosnia and Herzegovina guaranteed by the Constitution and laws will not remain just a dead letter on the paper. At the same time, this partnership and our presence today at this gathering represent a strong support to promotion of initiative for the celebration of the Global Elections Day. It can also serve as an additional tool to making elections and politics more intelligible and attractive to women, while at the same time making them more acceptable to political parties and voters in our country.
Then, Mr. Mirsad Isaković, chairman of the Committee on Gender Equality of the House of Representatives of the Parliamentary Assembly of Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered a speech saying that election officials carry out a responsible job and that they are guarantee of democracy that is fully displayed through conduct of elections. Preparation and conduct of elections are one of the most challenging public affairs and therefore it is necessary to support the initiative of the Association of European Election Officials for marking of the Global Elections Day. The Law on Gender Equality represents to the Committee on gender equality a measure used to assess the relation other laws, public policies and practices towards gender equality in BiH. The attitude of the Committee on Gender Equality is that one has to be more determined in order to reach the legally prescribed percentage of at least 40% of representation in public and political life of the country. The key question is how to strengthen women within political parties as this would strengthen their influence on party politics as well as their political promotion in the election period and beyond, thus certainly increasing their numbers in the legislative and executive authorities. It is clear that the quota system stipulated in the Election Law together with the preferential voting system does not ensure equal gender representation as it was also concluded by the Venice Commission. Therefore, said Mr. Isakovic, if we are to achieve gender equality in the near future we need to make guaranteed places for the less represented gender in legislative bodies as a temporary measure, in addition to other necessary measures envisaged in the strategic documents that require a consistent and responsible work in synergy of all actors.
Stjepan Mikić, member of the BiH Central Election Commission delivered a presentation “Gender quotas, how they function and different quota systems”, and Mrs. Samra Filipović-Hadžiabdić, director of the Agency for Gender Equality of BiH delivered a presentation on “Achieving gender equality in political life of BiH – challenges and opportunities”.
At the end of the event, Mr. Novak Božičković, member of the Central Election Commission, delivered closing remarks recapturing presentations delivered and reiterating that the introduction of gender quotas in the legislation represents only a part of the solution, but that the most crucial thing is to have women elected and therefore a stronger campaign and promotion of female candidates in direct elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina has to be conducted. At the same time, this could be the message of today’s event.
In addition to the central event organized by the Central Election Commission, in cooperation with the Ministry of Human Rights and Refugees and Gender Equality Agency of Bosnia and Herzegovina a recommendation was sent to all municipal / city election commission to mark this day with appropriate events. According to the information received, 20 municipalities in Bosnia and Herzegovina organized different programs to mark the GED: radio shows, lectures at schools and solemn sessions.
BiH Central Election Commission