Leaders Fail to Come to a Political Agreement on Election Law

Agreement on the election rules for Bosnia’s presidency and the upper house of the Federation entity’s parliament remains elusive days before the autumn elections are called, as the leaders of entity’s main political parties failed to reconcile their views on the election law reform in a meeting hosted by the United States ambassador in Sarajevo.

Glaring differences between mainly Bosniak and Bosnian Croat parties on the rules of ethnic quotas threaten to generate a constitutional crisis in the country, as the results of an election according to the current law could be impossible to implement.

The last round of talks before the October elections are called was hosted by the U.S. Ambassador to Bosnia, Maureen Cormack. The meeting was attended by the leaders of the SDA, HDZ, SDP, DF and SBB, as well as the European Union’s envoy to Bosnia, Lars Gunnar Wigemark.

The failure to reach an agreement means that the elections this year will be held according to the law that was partly scrapped by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court. However, the leader of the main Bosniak party, the SDA, Bakir Izetbegović, said the election law still can be amended and the rules changed before the elections are actually held.

“Nothing is lost – the election law can be amended by October 5,” said Izetbegović, also the Bosniak member of Bosnia’s presidency.

He said the Venice Commission – a Council of Europe’s advisory body on constitutional matters – will be asked to give advice on whether the negotiating positions of the political parties are in violation of human rights.

Senior European Union officials said holding the election results “hostage to party interests” was not an option.

“We expect the leaders of Bosnia and Herzegovina to reach a compromise… If the results of the general election cannot be implemented, the formation of a new government could be at risk,” they said in a statement.

Last year, the Bosnian Croat club in the parliament proposed restricting people in some electoral districts to voting for their own group’s representatives at all levels of government, a move that Bosniak parties rejected. Bosniak parties fear the proposal could be a prelude to the Croats forging a separatist entity.

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