Nearly three decades after the war ravaged the Balkan country, Bosnia and Herzegovina continues to be burdened by its ethnic divisions. Citizens headed to the polls to vote in general elections following a campaign season marked by threats of secession, political infighting, and fears of future turmoil as ethnic tensions in the country grow. While official results of the Bosnia and Herzegovina elections will be published in the coming weeks, the majority of votes have nonetheless been counted, and punditry speculating on their repercussions abound. On Sunday, October 2, voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina went to the pools in an election marked by ethnic tensions. The vote saw a strong contest between ethnic nationalists and progressive parties across the country. But the process was ultimately overshadowed by changes to the country’s constitution forced by the Office of the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina.
View this post on Instagram
It is too early to talk about the results of the elections, as there will surely be a long period of negotiations on the formation of the government(s) in one of the most complicated political systems in the world. What we can talk about is the results of the GOTV campaign that our members gathered in the Bosnia and Herzegovina Chapter conducted during the month of September, just before the elections.
The reasons for launching the campaign were to encourage young people to use their right to vote, to support young politicians, and to change the narrative about young people as inactive part of BiH society. Existing statistics show that the share of young people in the total population in BiH is decreasing. One of the biggest reasons for this is the phenomenon called brain drain. According to the United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA), about 300,000 people have left Bosnia and Herzegovina since the last census in 2013.
Although some studies have shown that the interest of young people in the elections is huge (according to the results of the survey by UNICEF’s platform for supporting social activism of young people U-Report BiH, 83 percent of young people planned to vote) we knew this was unrealistic.
We created Instagram/Facebook posts that sent two types of messages:
– Invitation to use the right to vote
– Descriptions of situations that occur if the right to vote is not used
We were inspired by current political events, word games and the psychology of BiH voters. The inefficiency of our political system was fertile ground for the creation of this type of content. BiH lawmakers have the highest salaries in the Balkan region and numerous perks. Still, the number of laws adopted to tackle real-life market reform issues, jobs, the poor rule of law, corruption, and organized crime is disproportionately low. If you present these examples to the users of social networks as something that awaits them in the next four years, then the reaction is almost certain.
View this post on Instagram
As expected, the posts caused discussion among users – in the comments we could read messages of dissatisfaction, calls for a coup d’état, mistrust in decision-making processes, but also messages of optimism. In total, we reached 275k people on Facebook and 193k on Instagram.