Discussion on referendum in RS shows deep division in entity

Discussion on referendum in RS shows deep division in entity

Τhe Republic of Srpska’s National Assembly began, on Monday morning, the session to suspend the decision on a referendum about BiH’s Court and BiH Prosecutor’s Office. The referendum decision was adopted by the RSNA in 2015, but after Naser Oric’s acquittal at the BiH Court, the opposition demanded the activation of this decision. According to the law, the referendum shall take place on November 19, unless the RSNA suspends the decision.

However, the discussion at the session was about all other political problems apart from the referendum. The opposition demanded the arrival of the RS president, Milorad Dodik, after the entrance of whom began the session. Many MPs asked him to explain the political events of the past and Dodik answered his way, which means that, at times he was very rude, forgetting that he was attenting the session of the highest legislative institution in RS. With a lot of insults on a personal level that had to do with the look of people, their families, their level of education and their political knowledge, Dodik tried to upset the opposition MPs and push them to leave the hall. In that case, he would have been able to accuse them of being responsible for anything that would happen in the future. But, nothing like this took place since the opposition stayed put at leat until the lunch break.

In fact, the parliamentary talks prove the degree of political division in RS, which is so great that it seems impossible even to think about unified and coordinated political moves at any level in BiH.

The opposition claims that they just want to know what was changed in the ruling coalition’s stance in the past two years that that made them voted in favour, whereas, today, they are asking for the suspension of the referendum decision.

The debate was heated with Dodik refusing to answer MPs questions.

What marked the whole session were the mutual accusations while the RSNA Speaker, Nedjeljko Cubrilovic, was unable to call them to order and prevent the violation of everyone’s dignity inside Parliament.

So, why is the referendum such important an issue?

Ever since today’s ruling party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, came to power in RS, in 2006, with Dodik as the leader, it is advocating the reform of the BiH judiciary. The greatest achievement of the BiH Court and the Prosecution’s office until now is that most of their cases concern war crimes against Bosniaks and the accusations of a large number of Serbs for atrocities. The same number of Bosniaks and Croats accused for war crimes against Serbs is significantly smaller.

The referendum has been an option for a long time before the RSNA adopted the relevant, but simply it had not been on the agenda before 2015.

Regardless of the international community protesting against it, the RS Law on Referendum was  finally adopted in 2010. The possibility for it to be held was first mentioned a year later and then, in Banja Luka, on the arrival of the high ranked EU official, Catherine Ashton.

After long negotiations with Dodik, he abandoned the idea and accepted the “structural dialogue on the judiciary system in BiH”. No matter the efforts, no solution to the problem has been reached since.

The second time that Dodik abandoned the idea for a referendum was right after the adoption of the decision in 2015.

Back then, although the decision had been adopted by the RSNA, it had not yet been published in the “RS Official Gazette”. So, when Dodik traveled to Belgrade Aleksandar Vucic, who was the then Serbian PM, asked him not to go into that political adventure. The result was that the decision was put “on ice” for two-and-half years and was never officially published.

Now, since the ruling coalition is the majority in the RSNA, the decision about a potential referendum will be suspended for a third time. The reactions from abroad  are still bitter while the representatives demand the complete withdrawal of the decision, not just its suspension. Dodik, as he explained during the Monday session, is not keen to do this.

Right now, it feels as if the abyss separating political options in RS is more than bottomless and that the election campaign has begun already a year before the polls…/IBNA