Leaked Document Complicates Election Law Dispute

A leaked piece of work material of Bosnia’s election commission added to the hurdles of an ethnically-charged dispute over proposed changes to the country’s election law.

Bosnia is supposed to have presidential and parliamentary elections in October, but the country’s main Bosniak and Croat political parties seem unable to strike a deal on amendments to the election law pertaining to the rules of election in the Federation entity’s upper house of the parliament.

Amid a round of talks of the political parties, mediated by the international community in Bosnia, a document of the Central Election Commission was leaked to the press, suggesting that the body was set to update the rules on the number of members of the Federation’s House of Peoples from the entity’s cantons, favoring lawmakers from groups that are a majority in individual cantons. The update is supposed to reflect the ethnicity figures from the last population census, held in 2013, but it was lambasted by the Bosniak parties that saw it as an attempt to give Bosnian Croat-dominated parts of the country an exclusive right to elect Croat members of the House.

“I call on the parties… to agree on the provisions missing from the election law and enable the Central Election Commission to conduct the election in 2018,” CEC president Irena Hadžiabdić told a press conference in Sarajevo.

“The (next) government will not be formed unless we know the number of delegates that we are electing and the rules for their election.”

Hadžiabdić denied that the leaked document was an official CEC document and said it was supposed to serve only as a basis for discussion on updating the House of People’s rules.

Responding to a Bosnian Croat politician’s appeal, the national Constitutional Court ruled in 2016 that candidates elected to the Federation parliament’s upper house should come from the main ethnically-based parties that draw the support of most Croats. Last year, Bosnian Croat parties proposed amendments that define ethnically-based electoral districts where people would vote only for their own community’s representatives at all levels of governance, including the collective head of state.

But critics, including the main Bosniak party, the SDA, rejected the amendments, arguing  it could be a step towards creating a Bosnian Croat entity in the Federation.

To help resolve the dispute, Western envoys have been mediating talks between the parties but without result.

“I would find it extremely risky to go for elections not knowing how to implement election results,” Thomas Greminger, secretary general of the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, OSCE, said this week in Sarajevo.

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