European Western Balkans

Problem with election financing: New political obstruction in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Željko Komšić, Milorad Dodik and Šefik Džaferović; Photo: Presidency of BiH

The BiH Council of Ministers session is scheduled for Monday, 6 June, which is expected to consider the draft of the budget for 2022. The Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Zoran Tegeltija stated that he hopes that the draft budget will be adopted during the session. That document will be sent to the Presidency of BiH, as provided by the Constitution. Tegeltija explained that the procedure continues in the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH after the Presidency.

However, the Central Election Commission (CIK) announced on Thursday that operational and financial resources should be provided to them today to make all preparations for the election process.

“In this regard, it is necessary for the BiH Council of Ministers to make a special decision on financing the 2022 general elections, because otherwise their holding on 2 October will be most seriously endangered”, CIK announced, Oslobođenje.ba reported.

In late May, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) blocked a particular decision at the level of the Council of Ministers to finance the upcoming general elections. Representatives of Serb and Bosniak parties voted in favor, while HDZ Minister of Finance Vjekoslav Bevanda voted against such a decision.

Although Bevanda himself called on the CIK earlier to ask for money for the elections following the Law on Financing of BiH Institutions, when they did so, Bevanda said they “misunderstood him”. The Central Election Commission asked the BiH Council of Ministers to decide on approving the money for the elections the accumulated funds from previous years. HDZ ministers rejected that decision because it is “illegal”.

Damir Kapidžić, Associate Professor at the Faculty of Political Science in Sarajevo and member of the Balkans in Europe Policy Advisory Group (BiEPAG), says for European Western Balkans that financing the elections itself should not be a problem because it is a technical issue for which there are legal obstacles.

„However, this technical issue is being misused for political purposes to keep the elections questionable. At the same time, no one from the executive and legislative authorities is questioning the financing of the elections, but adopting the budget and approving the funds for the elections is being delayed as much as possible. This produces uncertainty in the election process“, says Kapidžić.”

According to him, the HDZ uses all legal possibilities to prevent timely financing of elections after the failure in the negotiations on changes to the elections law.

„The leaders of this party use their powers to prevent the discussion and adoption of the BiH budget for 2022. This is not for procedural and legal reasons but for the political conviction of the party and its leadership that the election process should be called into question. After the failure in the negotiations on changes to the election law, this party in every sense and through its actions is trying to question the legitimacy of the elections in BiH, often in cooperation with HDZ of Croatia”, assesses Kapidžić.

EU Delegation to Bosnia and Herzegovina condemned the failure of the Bosnian state government to adopt a decision ensuring the financing of the elections that have been announced for October, emphasizing that the elections “need to take place regularly on 2 October”. The EU’s office stated that the failure of negotiations is “deeply concerning” and called for a swift decision to ensure the CIK can start the preparations for the elections.

“The pressure from the international community is extremely great, and it is especially directed toward those who block the election process. This is very dangerous as there is no accountability mechanism for non-holding elections. All this together can lead to the destabilization of the state”, Kapidžić concluded.

The US Embassy in Sarajevo said that all leaders are responsible for ensuring that citizens exercise their democratic right to vote in free, fair, and timely elections, which includes providing money within the required deadline.

“Obstructions to the financing and holding of elections and the threat of further division of BiH are anti-Dayton, destabilizing the state contrary to the Euro-Atlantic path of BiH. It is time for leaders to take own responsibility for advancing the reforms they promised during the previous election campaign, such as the rule of law and laws governing the integrity of the electoral process”, US Embassy announced.

The public in BiH speculates that the High Representative could resolve this crisis in BiH Christian Schmidt and, under his powers, imposes a decision on the financing of the elections. HDZ leader Dragan Čović said it would be “catastrophic if the High Representative imposed a state budget”.

The deadline for submitting funds passed on 19 May. At that time, 12.5 million convertible marks should have been paid to the account of the CIK from the state Government. CIK said they could not even assume that the state would not want to provide funds “to enable citizens’ rights guaranteed by the Constitution”. In the general elections, the citizens of BiH elect members of the Presidency and representatives in the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH and MPs in the entities.

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