18:15 / 30.01.2022.

Author: Branko Lozančić

Negotiations on electoral reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina completed without agreement

Negotiations on electoral reforms in BiH

Negotiations on electoral reforms in BiH

Foto: Denis Kapetanovic / PIXSELL

Representatives of Croat and Bosniak parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) ended three days of talks in Neum on Sunday without a final agreement, aimed at agreeing changes to the election law, but they "brought positions closer", said negotiators.

Leaders of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) BiH and the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and some opposition parties have been negotiating behind closed doors in Neum since Friday on various models for amending the election law to bring it into line with European Court of Human Rights and BiH Constitutional Court rulings.

The aim is to eliminate discrimination against citizens on the basis of ethnicity or place of residence and the legitimate representation of constituent peoples in government.

US Special Envoy for Electoral Reform in BiH Matthew Palmer mediated the talks with Angelina Eichhorst, the director of the European Union's foreign affairs service.

After the last round of talks, Palmer told reporters that it was important for political leaders to come together and discuss directly the difficult issues that will not just disappear.

“The adoption of an appropriate electoral model must ensure that Croats in BiH are properly represented in all government bodies, and institutions in the Federation of BiH must be strong and functional,” said Palmer.

He added that the USA and the EU will continue to mediate, but solutions must be found by domestic politicians. He warned that this is a package in which nothing is agreed until everything is agreed.

Eichhorst said that despite the lack of a final agreement, the talks were good, there was progress and most importantly, it would continue.

HDZ BiH President Dragan Čović said that there were four models on the table for electing members of the three-member BiH presidency from the Federation of BiH, and it seems an electorate with two electoral slates was unacceptable.

“There is a certain step forward, some will say there are still a few differences, but in any case there is a good basis,” said Čović.

According to him, it is possible that negotiations will continue in the next seven to ten days and that a final solution will be reached on the manner of electing members of the presidency and deputies in the House of Peoples of the Federation BiH, in which the Croatian side insists that Croats elected to the body are elected from counties with a Croat majority.

He added that the powers of parliamentary houses must not be reduced as proposed by the Bosniak side, but changes are possible in the way the president of the Federation of BiH and his deputies are elected.

SDA President Bakir Izetbegović said that despite the lack of a final agreement, it was important that the matter regarding the House of Peoples was practically resolved, and that the election of presidency members was "very close".

The leader of the Alliance for a Better Future (SBB), Fahrudin Radončić, pointed out that the Bosniak opposition is united in not allowing the predominance of the ethnic element in relation to the interests of BiH as a state.

He described the lack of a final agreement as proof that the opposition consistently protects the interests of a multiethnic BiH, while respecting Croat demands for legitimate representatives in government but without crossing some of the "red lines".

He is sure that there will be elections in the fall, and in the meantime, work should be done on harmonizing Croat-Bosniak relations, because only Milorad Dodik is growing stronger due to their disagreement.

The general elections in BiH are to be held in October, and the election commission must call them by May 5th at the latest. Prior to that, amendments to the election law would have to be adopted in the BiH parliament and the constitution partially amended so that the solutions agreed upon by politicians could be applied in the new election cycle.

Changes to the election law require more than half of the majority in the House of Representatives, but the constitution can only be changed with two-thirds of parliamentary support, so it is necessary that along with the part of the HDZ BiH and SDA opposition parties take part.

Representatives of some of them, such as Elmedin Konaković's People and Justice (NiP) and Radončić's SBB, took part in negotiations in Neum. However, SDP BiH, Naša stranka (NS) and the Democratic Front (DF) of Željko Komšić, which is in a coalition with the SDA, boycotted the negotiations, demanding that the blockade of state authorities, which has been carried out by Bosnian Serb officials for more than half a year, be lifted.

Political parties from the Republika Srpska also did not participate in the negotiations, explaining that the electoral reform is a matter of agreement between Croats and Bosniaks, because it primarily refers to the Federation of BiH.

The European Court of Human Rights has previously ruled in five different judgments that BiH citizens are discriminated against in elections if they are members of national minorities or do not declare themselves ethnically, or if they live in an entity from which they cannot run for BiH presidency, or for representatives in the State House of Peoples.

The Judgment of the Constitutional Court of BiH from 2016 determined that the composition of the House of Peoples of the Parliament of the Federation of BiH must maintain the authentic electoral will of the members of a certain constituent people, i.e. that it is not a body representing counties.

Croatian parties demanded that this analogy be applied to the presidency of the state in order to ensure that a Croat elected to the state leadership represents the will of the Croatian electorate.

Source: HRT

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