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News 10 Jan 18

Pressure Mounts on Bosnia to Change Electoral Law

With a general election looking in 2018, pressure is increasing once again on Bosnia's quarrelling parties to change election laws that have left the city of Mostar without a local election since 2008.

Mladen Lakic
Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic in Ankara Photo: AP/Beta.

On a visit to Ankara, Croatian President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic has asked President Recep Tayyip Erdogan to support a Bosnian Croat call to change Bosnia’s electoral law to give them more political power.

Meanwhile, members of the EU Commission, the US embassy to Bosnia and the OSCE will meet political parties on Wednesday in Sarajevo also to convince them to work on a new election law.

Media reports said the focus of this meeting would also be on changing the electoral law in Mostar, a city in southwest Bosnia that has not held any local elections since 2008 owing to years of disputes about the election code.

Following a ruling of Bosnia's Constitutional Court, which declared Mostar's electoral statute unconstitutional, the city has repeatedly missed holding local elections.

Mostar's two main Bosniak and Croat parties, the Croatian Democratic Union of BiH, HDZBiH, and the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, have been unable to find a compromise to reform the law.

Politicians said the chances of a breakthough now looked remote.

“I believe the chances of agreement on this issue are small, as there are different views on the content of the proposition, so I do not believe compromise can be achieved,” Mladen Ivanic, the Serbian member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, told the media.

Borjana Kristo, chair of the House of Representatives of Bosnia's parliament, agreed. “We had regular meetings until Christmas but no agreement was reached – so we have decided not to talk about this meeting before we get a solution,” Kristo said.

Bosnia is due to hold a general election in 2018 amid fears that, without a new law, it may be impossible to form of the House of Peoples [the upper chamber], either at state level or in the country's Fedaration entity.

Formation of a government in the Federation entity is also in doubt.

Bosnian Croats want election laws amended to ensure that the numerically dominant Bosniaks cannot elect Croat representatives.

However, this would involve dividing the whole of the Federation entity into ethnically-based electoral units, which most Bosniaks resist.

However, after the Croatian National Assembly, an umbrella body uniting Bosnian Croat parties, proposed the amendment to the law last April, Bosnia's Constitutional Court ruled in July that the proposal did not damage the "vital national interest" of the Bosniak people.

Croatia supports the amendment to Bosnia's election law as part of its strategy of trying to secure better representation for Bosnia's Croats, the least numerous of Bosnia's three main communities.

It is hoped that such concessions would alleviate demands for the formation of a separate, Croat, "third entity", besides the current Serbian-dominated Republika Srpska and the Federation entity - which Bosniaks and Croats are supposed to share, but in which Bosniaks are far more numerous.

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