Leaders of Federation BiH’s (FBiH) parliamentary parties gathered on Thursday afternoon in Sarajevo in yet another attempt to reach an agreement on changes in the BiH Election Law. If they fail, the entire election process and the implementation of results of the general elections in October will be doubtable.
After five hours of debate, they came out having reached one conclusion – it is necessary to engage the Venice Commission so that it can decide whether the suggested changes are in accordance with EU standards.
At several meetings held earlier this year, Bosniak and Croat parties were on opposite standpoints and no one wanted to take a step back; if any side did so, the problem would have been resolved. The issue was raised when the BiH Constitutional Court, a year-and-half ago, partially accepted the complaints filled by Croat politician, Božo Ljubić, about the manner of election of the Croat representatives in the FBiH Parliament House of Peoples (HoP). According to BiH’s Election Law, every single one of the ten cantons in FBiH delegate at least one representative from each of the country’s three main ethnic groups to the FBiH HoP. But, according to Ljubić’s complaint, Croats do not have much influence in cantons where Bosniaks are a majority which means that majority groups decided about minority group delegates also. Therefore, as he said, Croat delegates should be elected only from cantons with a Croat majority in order to avoid the ongoing situation. The other side of the coin is that this will forbid Croats in cantons with a Bosniak majority to be elected in the HoP. Bosniaks are afraid that this would cause the same issues to the “third entity” in BiH, where Croats are the majority.
Bosniaks also argue that according to the FBiH Constitution, every citizen has the right to live in any canton he/she wants and that the same rights apply to all people in the country, including the right to elect and be elected. Bosnian Croat political leaders firmly insist on not allowing Bosniaks to elect “loyal Croats” in key positions. The biggest parties, the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), and the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) are key players but there is no sign that any of them would agree to compromise. Their leaders, Bakir Izetbegović and Dragan Čović are members of the joint BiH Presidency, along with the Serb member, Mladen Ivanić. The problem about the Election Law is visible also in this joint institution where two of its members are constantly arguing with each other.
As in all earlier cases, negotiations are hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to BiH, Maureen Cormack, with the participation of the EU Special Representative, Lars Gunnar Wigemark. It means that the international community wants to see this problem solved as soon as possible and -at best- before the Central Election Commission BiH officially announces the general elections’ date. This is expected on May 8 and parties have just a few days to agree and adopt changes in Parliament.
“The European Commission in its recent report on Bosnia and Herzegovina calls on political leaders to assume their responsibilities and show willingness to compromise on a solution with regard to the indirect elections of the Federation entity House of Peoples. In light of earlier commitments, political leaders have yet to reach an agreement on how to amend the provisions of the electoral legislation following recent rulings of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The ongoing local facilitation efforts by EU and US ambassadors to Bosnia and Herzegovina have provided a framework conducive to a solution being found. We expect the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach a compromise without further delay in the best interest of their country. If the results of the general election cannot be implemented, the formation of a new government could be at risk”, the EU Delegation to BiH warned in a recent press release.
But, as many politicians noticed, the next regular session of the FBiH Parliament is scheduled for May 14, six days after the CEC is supposed call for elections. It clearly shows that democracy in BiH is being put to the greatest test since the end of the war.
At this point, it is clear that political leaders will ask for extra time in order to reach an agreement. Some of them, like the SDA leader Bakir Izetbegović, claimed that there is enough time to agree on Law changes and to adopt them in Parliament. He mentioned October 5 as the closing date of the task... / IBNA