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Elections in Bosnia in line with international standards, election observers say

October 4, 2010. 11:31 EST

SARAJEVO, BOSNIA-HERZEGOVINA (BNO NEWS) -- General elections held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday were conducted generally in line with commitments made to the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), election observers said on Monday.

With around 8,000 candidates, over 3 million voters were able to choose from a broad range of candidates representing a wide political spectrum at the state and entity level.

Preliminary results show Bakir Izetbegovic, 54, from the Party of Democratic Action - and the son of Bosnia's wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic - on top of the elections.

"We are going, in my opinion, to stabilize the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina and to bring better future to citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which means peace, better conditions for development of the economy," Izetbegovic said.

According to the OSCE, election day was orderly and calm, and even though observers noted instances of family voting in one out of four polling stations visited, voting was assessed positively.

However, the organization went on to say that the counting process was assessed less positively with numerous procedural irregularities observed. The observers also noted the unusually high percentage of invalid ballots, calling them "a matter of concern."

The election commissions at the central and municipal level enjoyed general confidence among electoral stakeholders. The appointment process of polling station committees, however, was tainted by the practice of contestants nominating committee members affiliated with another party or candidate, or contestants trading seats.

The election campaign was generally calm, although it was occasionally marked by nationalist rhetoric and inflammatory statements.

The variety of views presented in the media provided voters with the opportunity to make informed choices, although populist rhetoric often detracted from issues of substance. While contestants addressed economic, social and European integration topics, constitutional issues and underlying ethnic divisions remained omnipresent.

"We have seen yet another demonstration that the electoral process in Bosnia and Herzegovina has stabilized, which is a further promising step towards full integration into the European structures," said Special Co-ordinator Roberto Battelli who leads the short-term OSCE observer mission and heads the OSCE PA delegation.

"Our delegation is impressed with the peaceful and relaxed atmosphere surrounding these elections, and it pays tribute to the thousands of electoral administrators whose professionalism and commitment made the voting process a success. However, the elections were once again conducted with ethnicity and residence-based limitations to active and passive suffrage rights imposed by the Dayton Accords," Tiny Kox, Head of the delegation of the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly, said.

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