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news 09 Oct 17

Bosnian Serb Parties Brace for Assembly Clashes

Opposition parties in Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity intend to use the next session of the assembly to put President Milorad Dodik on the spot about a number of hot issues.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Republika Srpska National Assembly. Photo: Beta.

The next session of the Republika Srpska parliament on October 17 could determine political relations and the balance of power in the entity in the coming months, experts say, as the 19 topics listed on the agenda include a number of hot issues.

The agenda does not include the most controversial issue of all however, namely the long-awaited referendum on the authority of Bosnian state judicial organizations.

The decision to hold a referendum on the powers of Bosnian courts in the entity was agreed by the assembly back in 2015 and officially published in the Republika Srpska Official Gazette only last month.

Under strong pressure from Serbia as well as from opposition parties, RS President Milorad Dodik had withheld publication of this decision for two years.

He only eventually allowed its publication under the threat of legal action from the opposition, sources from both ruling and opposition parties in the RS told BIRN.

Following that, the RS government has until mid-November to organize the referendum or officially withdraw the decision.

Opposition parties decided to press charges against Dodik for withholding this decision for two years in order to publicly embarrass him and his government.

But on the same day the referendum decision was published, on September 20, Dodik then announced he was withdrawing the initiative due to a perceived lack of support for it within the RS.

However, Dodik is still uncertain how to handle this issue, which is why the referendum on the courts will not be up for discussion at the next regular assembly session on October 17.

It is more likely to feature in a special session, expected to be held around the same time, sources told BIRN.

Yet, even without a discussion on the referendum, the October 17 session will still include a number of highly controversial issues, which are expected to result in major clashes between the ruling and opposition parties.

One is a discussion on the latest report on the execution of the entity budget, which entity chief auditor Dusko Snjegota submitted.

Following submission of his report, Snjegota faced strong criticism from President Dodik, leading to his resignation two weeks ago.

After Snjegota quit, Bosnian Serb opposition parties - which viewed the Auditor’s Office as one of the last relatively independent  bodies in the entity - condemned Dodik and his ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, and temporarily blocked the work of the assembly.

The session was continued only after police assistance and without deputies from the opposition bloc.

Now the Bosnian Serb opposition bloc is preparing to use the issue to mount a new offensive against Dodik and SNSD.

Another controversial issue to be discussed on October 17 is a resolution on the protection of the entity’s constitutional structure and military neutrality, according to which the RS will coordinate with Serbia on any future changes to its status.

According to the proposal, which Dodik is preparing, the RS should proclaim its military neutrality in relation to the existing military alliances until a referendum is held on the subject.

The resolution would be binding on all RS institutions, as well as on RS representatives in Bosnian state institutions, so any actions taken contrary to this document would be penalised.

Some experts consider the resolution no more than a populist gimmick.

Tanja Topic, a Banja Luka-based political analyst, called the resolution on neutrality a kind of compensation for the decision to abandon the referendum on state judicial institutions.

“The RS does not have an army, so the resolution [on military neutrality] is absolutely pointless,” Topic said.

“I do not know what they want to achieve except to warm up a sense of patriotism”, she added, qualifying it also as a response to the efforts of part of Bosnia's politicians to bring the country closer to NATO membership.

“However, Bosnia is light years away from NATO membership,” Topic continued.

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