bosnia report
New Series No: 19/20 October - December 2000
OSCE imposed unjust electoral rules
by Jasna Hasovic

Jasna Hasovic

OSCE Imposed Unjust Electoral Rules

The new electoral rules announced less than one month before the 11 November elections by the head of the OSCE mission in B-H Robert Barry, according to which the B-H Constitutional Court decision regarding the equality of B-H’s three constituent peoples would apply only in the Federation and not in RS, meant that ethnic purity would continue to characterise the elections in the latter. The provisional electoral commission (PIC) had followed the lead of the two parliaments, which had ignored the Court’s ruling by refusing to amend their own constitutions accordingly. It is simply incomprehensible why Mr Barry should have acted so late - and why, when he did, he acted selectively. The strong phobia towards everything that might strengthen the state of Bosnia seemingly shared by all - entities, OSCE and PIC - thus entered a highly dangerous phase.

Thanks to the PIC’s altered rules, the Chamber of Peoples in the Federation parliament will in future seat 30 Bosniaks, 30 Croats and 20 ‘others’, mainly Serbs. The changes affect also the Chamber of Peoples in the B-H assembly, as well as the election of the president and vice-president of the B-H Federation, which will henceforth involve also Serbs. These decisions are constitutionally sound - the problem lies in the fact that they are not being applied to RS. If the PIC had respected the B-H Constitution, the assembly of RS and its executive and judiciary bodies would have to represent all three constituent peoples, thus ending discrimination against non-Serbs. The president and vice-president of RS, for example, could not be of the same ethnicity, in the same way as is now being demanded of the Federation.

Mr Barry justified his last-minute decision to change the electoral rules in the Federation by asserting that this would ‘secure a balance between the ethnic and political dimensions’. Although this move was directed mainly against the SDA and the HDZ, it angered the civic, multi-ethnic parties too, in that it applied only to the Federation, while leaving the legislative, executive and other bodies in RS ethnically homogeneous.

The SDA protested that the new OSCE rules did not embody the Constitutional Court’s decision, which should apply to the whole of the territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and also that they would skew the ethnic distribution in some cantons. Acording to SDA spokesmen, ‘the Posavina and Livno cantons are not supposed to supply a single Bosniak delegate. We feel it is wrong that these cantons, in which Bosniaks form a minority, will not send Bosniak delegates to the Chamber of Peoples in the B-H Federation. Before the rules were changed, they used to send two.’ They also complained that the RS assembly remained a single-chamber parliament, and that the new rules did not include mechanisms designed to protect Bosniaks and Croats in that entity.

The HDZ expressed a similar view. Its vice-president Marko Tokiƒ told Dani: ‘We find the OSCE decision unacceptable. It is the final straw so far as the Croats are concerned, in that it negates the Federation established by the Washington and Dayton agreements and the constitution based on them. It is anti-constitutional and hence illegitimate and illegal. It is most absurd that its legality is claimed to rest - this is a real absurdity! - upon the Draft Electoral Law.’ He also referred to the relationship between the number of voters and the number of deputies: ‘How is it that the number of Croat delegates in counties with a Bosniak majority has been increased everywhere except in Sarajevo, where it remains the same; while the number of Croat deputies elected in counties in which the nationalities are numerically equal, or where Croats form a majority, has dropped?’ Tokiƒ insisted that this was an attempt to destroy the Chamber of Peoples, by making it impossible for it to play its role of protecting individual national interests: ‘The Federation is thereby constituted as a civic entity dominated by the numerically largest ethnic group, which is not to say that the Bosniaks [ i.e. the SDA] are to be blamed for this.’

The SDP too were critical of the changed electoral rules. They said that the only proper solution lay in adoption of the electoral law which their party had presented last year in the B-H assembly. ‘The decision of the Constitutional Court has removed the formal barrier in whose name the opponents of our proposal used to reject it.’ They argued, however, that a Chamber of Peoples should be introduced also into the RS assembly, while ‘other’ delegates in the Federation parliament should constitute a ‘Serb Club’ with rights equal to the existing Bosniak and Croat Clubs.

The Party for B-H likewise argued that Barry’s decision, while potentially aiding implementation of the Constitutional Court’s rulings, was marred by the fact that it did not apply to RS. Its general secretary Sefer Haliloviƒ told Dani: ‘The electoral law changes made by the PIC, regarding elections to the Chamber of Peoples and for the president and vice-president of the Federation, are very good and could lead to the deletion of inter-entity boundaries. It is unfortunate, however, that they do not apply also in RS. The PIC should have introduced a Chamber of Peoples in RS, thereby helping to implement the Constitutional Court’s ruling also in that entity. There too the president and vice-president should not belong to the same ethnic group. Such failures have greatly weakened the value of these changes.’

Translated from a longer article in Dani (Sarajevo), 20 October 2000 (tenses altered)


‘Head of OSCE mission Robert Barry has reason indeed to sleep uneasily. His decision to weaken ethnic divisions [through the new electoral law] solely in the Federation, and not also in RS, has generated reservations even among people who can in no way be seen as close to the HDZ, particularly since the timing could not but be seen as a true propaganda gain for Jelaviƒ - who, in keeping with his reduction of politics to demagogy, immediately cashed it in by calling for an ‘all-Croat Sabor’ and a referendum of the Croat nation.’

Ivan Lovrenoviƒ in Dani (Sarajevo), 27 October 2000


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