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Representatives of eight political parties have met the representative of the international community in Bosnia to mull solutions for the divided city of Mostar.
High Representative Valentin Inzko brought together the representatives of eight Bosnian political parties in Sarajevo on Tuesday to discuss solutions for the power crisis in Mostar, a city in the south of the country.
Tuesday's meeting was the first in the effort to find a solution that would allow local elections to be held in Mostar on the basis of an electoral system that is in line with the rulings of Bosnia's Constitutional Court.
Because of a dispute over the voting system, the residents of Mostar were the only ones who did not vote on October 7 when local elections were conducted across the country.
“The citizens of Mostar deserve to have a democratically elected legislature and executive in place with undisputed mandates and without any further delay,” Inzko said.
In November 2010 and February 2012 the Constitutional Court of Bosnia issued two rulings ordering that the electoral system be changed to give all voters the same rights.
This followed a complaint by Croats on the City Council who said their rights were being violated by an electoral system that gave Bosniaks the same number of councillors even though Croats are the majority group in the city.
Despite the rulings, the electoral system in Mostar has remained unchanged. Mostar's City Council is currently a unitary authority elected from six voting units. Each unit elects the same number of councillors regardless of the number of voters in the unit.
Mostar is an ethnically divided city and political power is mostly shared between two ethnically-based parties, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, and the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ. Although there have been no exact data on the population or ethnic structure of Mostar since the 1991 census, estimates indicate that Croats make up a majority of the city's residents.
On Tuesday Inzko emphasized the wider importance of implementing the Court’s decisions, saying it's obligatory for Bosnian politicians to follow the rulings.
“There are many things that are a matter of choice for institutions and politicians but the rule of law is not one of them,” he said.
Participants in the meeting on Tuesday said no concrete solutions were suggested but all sides reiterated their readiness to solve the issue quickly.
Sladjan Bevanda, a representative of the HDZ, told the media that the process of finding a solution for Mostar had finally started and that he hoped a quick agreement would be reached based on his party's position.
The HDZ has long argued that in 2004 when former High Representative Paddy Ashdown abolished the municipalities in Mostar, his only aim was to prevent Croats from having more power than Bosniaks, thus discriminating against them.
The SDA solution is to again divide Mostar into municipalities with authority over them given equally to Bosniaks and Croats.
Inzko's deputy Roderick Moore will hold bilateral meetings with all relevant parties in the coming weeks to move the political process forward as fast as possible, the OHR announced.
Bosnia's High Representative says discussions over new ways to reorganise governing the city do not threaten its unity.
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