Preparations for referendum continue despite Constitutional Court decision

Preparations for referendum continue despite Constitutional Court decision

Banja Luka, September 19, 2016/Independent Balkan News Agency

By Mladen Dragojlovic

Since BiH Constitutional Court confirmed the decision that the January 9, as a RS Day, is not in accordance with Constitution and suspended the RS National Assembly decision on referendum, nothing important was happened.

Simply ignoring the Constitutional Court decisions, RS Commission for implementation of decision on referendum continues with preparations, printing voting papers and calling the citizens to vote on Saturday. Commission president, Sisisa Karan, said after the Commission session on Monday that they are under jurisdiction of RSNA, but not BiH Constitutional Court. At same time while the session was in progress, just a few offices away, RS NA speaker, Nedeljko Cubrilovic, had a meeting with Russian Federation Ambassador to BiH, Peter Ivantsov. Prior to this meeting, Ivantsov had met RS president, Milorad Dodik, to discuss the latest development regarding the political situation in BiH and Dodik meeting with Russian president, Vladimir Putin, in Moscow later this week.

“Our opinion is clear – RS citizens have the right to hold the referendum about this question and Russia will support that”, Ivantsov told the media in Banja Luka.

This opinion is in contradiction with the opinion of the EU and US ambassadors in BiH who called on RS to respect the BiH Constitutional Court decisions. International Community High Representative in BiH, Valentin Inzko, said that Court decisions must be respected or there will be consequences.

“The High Representative calls upon the authorities in the RS to refrain from holding a referendum that has no legal basis and would directly violate the decision of the Court. This is not about RS holidays any longer but about directly challenging the State level judiciary. As the final authority on the civilian aspects of the Peace Agreement, the High Representative reiterates that the Constitutional Court is the cornerstone of Annex 4 to the Peace Agreement and is key to its implementation. Challenging its authority by holding the referendum would constitute a direct and serious violation of the GFAP, which affects the stability of the country”, announced Office of the High Representative.

On Monday, Inzko repeated his call for respect of the Court decisions explaining that in his country, Austria, presidential elections will be repeated because the Constitutional court of the country said that there was some irregularities.

“More than half of citizens are against that decision but they respect it. Referendum in RS, if authorities hold it, will have no constitutional or legal power”, Inzko stated.

US Embassy was more direct and consider the continuation of activities on referendum as a threat to peace.

“We urge the leadership of the Republika Srpska to refrain from holding a referendum that would directly violate the decision of the court. Failure to respect the court’s decision would undermine rule of law, leads the RS to isolation and uncertainty and directly challenge the State level judiciary.  Such policies do not serve the interests of BiH citizens, including citizens of the RS, as they face numerous social and economic challenges. Moving forward with the referendum in defiance of the Constitutional Court is a threat to the rule of law and thus a threat to the stability, security and prosperity of the country.   The Dayton Peace Agreement is an international peace treaty that cannot be challenged without consequences.  The United States and the international community have invested heavily in bringing peace, stability and prosperity to BiH. We will not accept attempts to obstruct implementation of the DPA or weaken BiH institutions”, emphasize the US Embassy in its announcement.

EU high officials, Federica Mogherini and Johannes Hahn, in a joint statement, encourage the institutions of BiH to resolve this issue and to respect the rule of law through the established legal processes and the existing constitutional framework, and through constructive dialogue.

“All parties need to abstain from acts which could escalate the situation. BiH has embarked on an agenda of reforms that are necessary to cope with the economic and social challenges the country is facing and which are key to move forward on the European path. The issue of the RS day should not and must not distract BiH from this crucial work”, they stress in their joint statement.

It is certain that this week will be one of the politically most active in recent BiH history in BiH. The end of the week doesn’t mean the end of activities since, just a week after the referendum, local elections will take place and citizens will vote again. This time to elect representatives in local communities.