European Western Balkans

The standoff over the electoral law in Bosnia and Herzegovina

The general election in Bosnia and Herzegovina is due to take place in October 2018. Nevertheless, the political crisis and the stalemate over the changes to the electoral legislation do not seem to wane.

Dragan Čović, President of the HDZ BiH and Croatian presidency member, has recently reiterated his firm support to the proposed changes to the electoral law, referring to it as a “key task” that had to be fulfilled, thus emphasizing the negative implications of the unresolved issue to the European perspective of Bosnia and Herzegovina. He also expressed his conviction that the election law would be amended in the following three or four months, as reported by Bosnian news agency Patria.

On the other hand, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarović arrived yesterday in Ankara, where she discussed with President Erdogan, inter alia, state of affairs in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Croatian media have reported that President Grabar-Kitarović would seek support for the amendment to BiH’s electoral law due to the influence Turkey’s president has on Bosniak political leadership, especially on the leader of the SDA and Bosniak member of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegović.

This has been highly criticised both in BiH and Croatia.

Former Croatian President Ivo Josipović called for a caution when discussing the internal affairs in BiH.

“It is important to know that there is no solution beyond the country, a solution for BiH must be found in BiH itself. All states or politicians have to give up their ambitions to impose a solution from outside. (…) I hope that the president is aware of the limit she has,” Josipović told N1 Zagreb.

Izetbegović added that Turkey had never interfered with internal relations in BiH and that his friendly relations with President Erdogan were “faulty understood“, as reported by Bosnian Faktor.

Erdogan himself stated following the meeting that the changes to the electoral law were “an internal issue of Bosnia and Herzegovina” and that they should not give their opinion in this regard, Tanjug reports.

The electoral legislation not only is a matter of contention within BiH, but it has also been discussed within the EU, especially following the ruling of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina in 2016. Based on the Court’s decision, the legal solutions for completing the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation, according to which at least one representative from the ranks of each constituent people from each of the counties must be elected to the House of Peoples, were contrary to the Constitution of BiH and the principle of the constituency of the three peoples.

Under the current law, Bosniaks could, in practice, elect from the Bosniak majority canton one-third of the delegates to the Croatian club and three-quarters of delegates to the Serbian club of the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation, in addition to electing all the delegates to the Bosniak club. Then, for instance, Croatian and Bosniak presidency members are elected by all voters living in the Federation, where Bosniaks make up about 70% of the total population. This leads to the possibility of numerous Bosniaks outvoting the Croats in the Federation and electing both members of the Presidency.

However, proposals offered by Croatian political leaders to solve the issue have been vetoed by Bosniak representatives and often characterised as an attempt to introduce a third, Croat entity, and lead the country to the deadlock.

The general election in Bosnia and Herzegovina is due to take place in October 2018. Thus, the election would have to be called in May 2018 and political consensus on the changes to the electoral law would have to be reached until then.

However, possible blockages warned by the HNS would be avoided if the Central Election Commission (CIK) would timely, based on by-laws, determine the method of election and the number of representatives in the federal House of Peoples, reports Al-Jazeera, based on the remarks given by the President of CIK, Irena Hadžiabdić.

“If there is no agreement, and yet there is still time for this and we appeal to do so, then the CIK will focus on legal possibilities for drafting by-laws,” Hadžiabdić announced.

Publication of this article has been supported by the Balkan Trust for Democracy of the German Marshall Fund of the United States

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