Legislating ‘apartheid’: Critics slam Bosnia’s election law plan

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Legislating ‘apartheid’: Critics slam Bosnia’s election law plan

Tue, 07/26/2022 - 00:40
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Critics say the high representative’s plans will give disproportionate influence to Croat and Serb nationalists.

Plans by Bosnia’s high representative to amend the country’s election law and the federation entity’s constitution have been denounced by critics, who say it is segregationist and akin to legislating “apartheid”.

Earlier this week, local media broke the news that the Office of the High Representative (OHR), an international institution responsible for implementing Bosnia and Herzegovina’s peace agreement, is holding consultations with the international community to impose a new law regarding how delegates are chosen for the House of Peoples of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity’s parliament.

But analysts say with these changes, the OHR would give the Croat nationalist party HDZ (the Croation Democratic Union) and nationalist secessionist Serb SNSD party (the Alliance of Social Democrats) a disproportionate degree of political influence and further deepen discriminatory ethnic divisions.

According to the reported reforms, Bosnia’s “constituent people” – Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs – will lose representatives in the House of Peoples if their ethnic population in any federation canton amounts to less than three percent of the same ethnic population in the Federation entity.

For example, the Una-Sana canton located in western Bosnia with a Croat population of 1.9 percent, would lose its delegate for the Croat caucus, and the position would instead go to a canton with a large Croat population.

This translates to HDZ getting more delegates –  at least 14 out of 17 seats in the Croat caucus – as the nationalist party rules in cantons with larger Croat populations.

With complete control over the Croat caucus, a member from the HDZ will now be guaranteed a seat as either the president or as one of the two vice-presidents of the Federation in a team with a Bosniak and a Serb selected from their respective caucuses.

Regardless of whether HDZ has a president or a vice-president for the Federation, all three ethnic constituencies are required to form the government, making the HDZ indispensable.

In the same way that HDZ will be able to rule over the Croat caucus, thus securing a position in the Federation government, the SNSD party will have the same advantage. “HDZ and SNSD will become key in forming the Federation government,” Bosnian investigative news website Istraga reported.

The Bosniak caucus meanwhile is more politically competitive and fragmented along partisan lines.