High Representative gives Bosnian leaders ultimatum to change electoral law

EU High Representative and Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, German diplomat Christian Schmidt. Photo EPA-EFE/FEHIM DEMIR

Amid three days of protests in Sarajevo backed by the main Bosnian parties, the international envoy to Bosnia and Herzegovina, Christian Schmidt, on Wednesday only partially imposed changes to the electoral law in time for the October elections despite protests mainly from Bosnian parties.

Schmidt said he would give politicians in the Federation entity a new timeline to find their own solution, but would impose significant changes to election law if they failed to reach an agreement.

“Today I am imposing a transparency package that guarantees free and fair campaigning,” he said. “Today I also spoke very clearly with the leaders of the main parties of the Federation. I await the results. I expect them to do something for the country and for the people of the country where they live. It’s not a friendly suggestion, it’s their obligation. If they don’t, I’ll take responsibility based on the Dayton Peace Accord [of 1995]given to me by those who signed it,” Schmidt said.

Amid protests (link to protest news) that began in Sarajevo on Monday and ended on Wednesday, leaders of Federation parties met with the German diplomat on Wednesday, with most expressing optimism.

“I am convinced that we will not have a decision from the High Representative. For now, he [Schmidt] will bring changes only with regard to the transparency of the electoral process,” Nermin Niksic, chairman of the Social Democratic Party, told the media after the meeting.

“From the start, you have to get along with people who don’t want to get along. This has been our problem from the start. Why the [Bosnian Croat] The HDZ is negotiating with us when they know they could get what they wanted from Schmidt? Pedja Kojovic, leader of Nasa Stranka (Our Party) told the media after the meeting with the High Representative.

For nearly two years, Bosnia’s political leaders tried to agree on changes to the electoral law and the constitution of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the larger of the country’s two entities, but all attempts failed. failed.

The latest attempt came in January with moderation from the international community in the Bosnian coastal town of Neum, when political leaders again refused possible changes.

Less than four months before the general elections, the OHR, the international office overseeing the post-war peace settlement in Bosnia, intended to introduce changes using its executive powers.

The draft decision lists amendments to the law regarding the functioning of the Houses of Parliament, the election of leaders of the Federation entity, the election of judges to the Constitutional Court of the Federation entity as well as changes to ensure the integrity of the election. treat.

A change would mean that if the number of members of the constituent nations of Bosnia – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – in a canton of the Federation entity is less than 3%, they will no longer have representatives in the House Parliament of the peoples of the Federation.

The Bosnian side has criticized the plans as discriminatory, saying they are designed only to help the HDZ, but on Wednesday senior US and British diplomats in Bosnia expressed full support for the High Representative’s decisions.

Dragan Cović, head of the HDZ in Bosnia, argued strongly for the changes. He says that Schmidt’s proposal was an opportunity to correct a mistake made against the Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The current electoral law stipulates that delegates to the House of Peoples must be elected on a 1-1-1 basis, with at least one Bosnian, one Croat and one Serbian representative from each canton.

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