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Dalio Sijah, Editor of Portal Istinomjer

By Maja Tuljković – Sarajevo

Several years ago in B&H, an initiative was launched called Istinomjer, which follows the work and responsibility of political parties and all holders of public office. Istinomjer measures the level of honesty of political parties and politicians, how consistent they are in their promises, and how many of their promises they fulfilled. The team of people, who are working within the Association of Citizens “Zašto ne”, began the continuous monitoring in 2010 of the fulfillment of campaign promises by the parties in power in B&H. We spoke with the editor of portal Dalio Sijah about the goals of the initiative, the team of people who monitor the work of politicians, and in what way B&H citizens accepted Istinomjer and whether they had any proposals for it.
Can you first introduce Istinomjer to us? What kind of initiative is this?

Istinomjer deals with the promotion of political accountability in B&H. By this we mean accountability of public officials towards the citizens of B&H, as well as the responsibilities of the parties in power. What we can do is to monitor the fulfillment of the electoral promises of the parties that participate in government, and to evaluate the truthfulness and consistency of the statements of political actors in B&H, and the fulfillment of the promises that they made. Istinomjer is realized through the website, where people can track the progress in the fulfillment of campaign promises of the parties that form a government at the state and entity levels. Also, the website publishes contents such as periodic reports on the fulfillment of pre-election promises at three levels of government in B&H, analysis of statements by B&H politicians, as well as analysis of current topics in terms of accountability of political actors and institutions of the executive and legislative branches.
What are the goals of Istinomjer?

The main objective is to establish a culture of political accountability in B&H, which is, unfortunately, very poor in our political structures, as well as in the wider public. By constantly monitoring the fulfillment of pre-election promises of ruling parties, we wish to contribute primarily so that the parties would begin to take their pre-election campaigns seriously, as a ‘contract’ that they sign with their voters and what they are required to fulfill when they enter a governmental position. At the same time, we wish to encourage citizens to give their votes in the elections on the basis of results that the parties have achieved in government and to offer them a comprehensive overview of these results.

Election programs are something that is easily forgotten here as soon as the pre-election campaign is over, and our goal is to change such practices, because that is the only way to get elected representatives to take their jobs seriously and to be responsible. Also, the public discourse on the political scene in B&H is full of statements by political functionaries that are not rooted in facts, huge promises that are rarely or not at all met, and this is also something that we want to change by testing truthfulness, consistency and the foundation of what they say and promise. In short, we want to encourage all individuals to demand responsibility from the people that they have chosen through the elections.
In what ways are you following the work of politicians in B&H and their promises? How many people are working on this initiative

The realization of promises of political parties that participate in the government at the entity and state level is followed by a research team of five people, who daily follow the activities of the legislative and executive powers, and in this way they gain insight into the activities that are associated with these goals that the parties in power set in their election programs.

Their promises are presented on our website, along with information about which activities are undertaken in the current mandate of the realization of these promises, and an evaluation of progress in fulfilling them.

In this way, we can create a periodic report on the status of every promise that was given, and to have access to all activities that were undertaken in connection with its realization. Istinomjer daily monitors the media appearances of representatives in the legislative and executive governments, and deals with their evaluation in terms of truthfulness, consistency and fulfillment. The principle that we take is the statement that we assess has to be relevant to the political and social context in B&H, and has to be documented, published in the media or official documents such as transcripts of sessions in Parliament, and the assessment statements must be based on verifiable facts.

The statements or actions of officials that are relevant to the context of establishing political responsibility, but does not fit into the methodology of evaluation by the principles of consistency, accuracy and fulfillment of promises, are often processed by us through a detailed analysis that also includes ‘fact-checking’ approach, but without evaluating what we apply to individual statements or party programs.

How many analyses have you done until now?

In terms of monitoring the pre-election promises, the first analysis that we did was based on the mandate from 2006-2010, when we investigated how many promises five parties that formed the state level of government in the last mandate made. After that, we included in the monitoring the entity level, which, together with the state level, we have been continuously following since 2010, which means the monitoring of 1569 pre-election promises at all these levels.

So far, we have published four periodical reports on the progress at the entity level of government since 2011, and two reports that are related to the parties that participate in the work of the Council of Ministers.

What makes our work especially difficult, which is especially the case at the state level of government, is the delay in the formation of bodies of executive power, their frequent reconstruction, changes in the composition of the Council of Ministers, due to which it is sometimes hard to establish a precise time where the ‘line can be drawn’ as to how much one party managed to achieve its promises at one level of government.

We also published a report on the fulfillment of promises at the local level, for the mandate of 2008-2012, when we monitored in 10 B&H municipalities how many campaign promises mayors fulfilled. As for the analysis of statements and analytic texts that we publish on the site Isinomjer, there are several hundred of them, so it is difficult to determine the exact number.

How have the citizens of Istinomjer accepted this initiative? Do they have any recommendations or suggestions?

The comments that we receive from citizens primarily show the revolting work of B&H politicians and political parties in B&H. They seem to be more surprised when someone in a public function receives a positive assessment for a promise held, consistent attitude or true statement, rather than when they read a negative report or article on a falsehood. By reading their comments, it appears that the bad results and irresponsible attitude toward their work something that citizens have begun to include when they speak about politics and politicians, and that there are few of them whom citizens perceive as responsible citizens, valuable and honest politicians. Unfortunately, the results that we come to are primarily confirmed. Thus, we do not have as many suggestions from citizens related to our work as we have comments that are based on the terrible work of politicians.

When it comes to areas of following the economy, government regulation, culture and sports, the rule of law, health care, foreign policy and social policy, in what areas do B&H politicians offer the most promises?

Economics is an area in which ‘traditionally’, most promises are given, at all levels of government and from all parties. This was also the case in the last and the current mandate. For example, the parties that participate at the state level of government gave from this area 127 (around 28 percent) of the total number of promises at this level of government; at the level of FB&H around one-third of the promises were also given from this area (240), while in the RS 170 promises from the area of economy was given, which is nearly half (43 percent) of the total number of monitored promises at the level of this entity. After the economy, most of the promises are from the area of social policy. What is devastating is that in none of these two areas have parties achieved good results when it comes to fulfilling their promises.