The Bosnia and Herzegovina Central Election Commission (CEC BiH) adopted a proposal to amend the instructions on the procedure for conducting indirect elections for BiH authorities covered by the BiH Election Law, according to which the House of Peoples of the Federation BiH Parliament would be established according to the 2013 population census results.
This solution for a long lasting problem in BiH was proposed by the Head of the CEC BiH, Branko Petrić. Five members of the CEC BiH voted in favour of his proposal on the session held on Tuesday in Sarajevo, while two stood against.
The CEC BiH members had to decide between three proposals. CEC BiH member, Vlado Rogić, withdrew his proposal, stressing that the CEC BiH is not a legislator and is not competent to determining the number of MPs in the Federation BiH House of Peoples. Suad Arnautović proposed the 1991 census results to be used in this case, but failed to get a sufficient majority, with three votes in favour and four against.
Right after the decision was published, the highest representatives of Croat and Bosniak nation stated his objection on the decision explaining that it is not in accordance with the Federation BiH Constitution.
In the press release, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) said that it believes the decision is unconstitutional, in the part which has to do with the decision to use the population census from 2013 to distribute the mandate in the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH.
“The SDA believes that the CEC BiH was obligated to respect the FBiH Constitution, according to which the Census of 1991 must be applied until the final implementation of Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement. Today’s decision of the CEC is considered political, not professional”, the statement said.
Annex VII of the Dayton Peace Agreement say that the results of the 1991 census should be used in all institutions until the full implementation of refugees return in their previous places of living. But, most of Serb political representatives consider that this process is over since war ended more than two decades ago and whoever wanted to come back has already done it.
Bosniak politicians think that the return is still ongoing and that the implementation of the census 2013 would “seal the ethnic cleansing in Republika Srpska”. The SDA, through authorized appellants, will apply to the Constitutional Court of BiH for a review of the constitutionality of the CEC BiH decision. The Croat nation representatives also said that they will apply to the same Court to solve this problem.
In fact, the biggest problem in this case is the establishment of the Serb caucus in the F BiH House of Peoples. According to previous solutions, this caucus was impossible to establish because the F BiH Constitution said that the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the FBiH Parliament must have 58 delegates, 17 from each nation, and 7 from among the “others”. The Serb nation was never represented by a full number of MPs, but with maximum 13.
The U.S. Embassy and the European Union Delegation to BiH said in the press release that they take note of the CEC’s BiH decision.
“We commend the CEC for taking action that will enable formation of Federation authorities and call upon all relevant stakeholders to undertake necessary steps in this direction. The decision adopted by CEC does not relieve responsible authorities from the obligation to address current gaps in the BiH Election Law in a systematic way. In that context, we encourage parties to intensify work on finding compromise solutions bringing the country closer, not further away, from European standards and democratic norms that ensure the equality of all in Bosnia and Herzegovina”, the press statement reads.
Over the past 18 months, as it is noted, the United States and the EU attempted to facilitate dialogue among political parties in an effort to the address gaps in the BiH Election Law.
“Due to a lack of political will to compromise, parties failed to reach agreement on a legislative solution. In the absence of a legislative solution, the CEC has not only the authority, but also the responsibility to implement the election results. Experts from the Venice Commission made this clear in their discussions with political parties and with the CEC during visits to Sarajevo last summer and fall. Disagreements with the CEC decision should be resolved through available legal means, and the government formation process should not be held hostage”, the EU/US state./IBNA