News 15 Apr 16

Bosnian Serbs in Disarray over Controversial Referendum

Bosnian Serb political parties that decided four months ago to hold a potentially divisive referendum questioning the authority of the state constitutional court could not agree to meet to discuss the initiative.

Danijel Kovacevic
Banja Luka
Milorad Dodik | Photo: SNSD

The plan to hold the referendum in Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity - widely criticised as potentially divisive - appeared to be in disarray after only representatives of the ruling coalition turned up for a meeting on the issue called by President Milorad Dodik on Friday.

In November last year, representatives of all Republika Srpska’s political parties issued an ultimatum saying that if the state-level Constitutional Court was not reformed, they would hold a referendum questioning its authority over the entity.

Dodik cancelled Friday’s meeting because the political parties that are not in the ruling coalition did not attend, and two coalition parties, the Democratic People’s Alliance and Socialist Party, did not send their leaders.

“It is clear that representatives of some political parties are not ready to send their leaders but deputies [instead], and that shows that they are not serious,” Dodik told media.

The opposition parties did not attend because they claim that Dodik insulted them in a televised interview on Thursday.

All the Bosnian Serb political parties initially agreed to hold the referendum after the Constitutional Court ruled last November that Republika Srpska’s annual Republic Day public holiday, celebrating the entity’s foundation in 1992, should be abolished because it discriminates against people of other ethnic and religious backgrounds.

The Constitutional Court ruling was backed by the three international and two Bosniak judges on its panel, who outvoted the Croat and Serb judges.

That caused the Bosnian Serb political parties to demand that the Constitutional Court be reformed to exclude the foreign judges.

If a law to ensure this was not adopted by April 17, they said they would hold the referendum – a move criticised by Bosniak politicians and foreign diplomats.

Another proposed Bosnian Serb referendum, challenging the authority of the state court and Bosnia’s top international official, the High Representative, was due to be held in November, but has been postponed.

The European Parliament adopted a resolution on Thursday condemning the proposed referendum.

The resolution said the referendum “challenges the country’s cohesion, sovereignty and integrity”.

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