ZAGREB, March 29, 2018 – The EU’s Special Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Lars Gunnar Wigemark, and US Ambassador Maureen Cormack on Thursday issued a joint statement calling on local politicians to reach agreement on amending the country’s electoral legislation in line with the Constitutional Court’s ruling in a case filed by Croat politician Božo Ljubić so as to protect the rights of all constituent peoples in the election of deputies to the Croat-Bosniak entity parliament’s upper chamber called the House of Peoples, and warning that otherwise a serious political crisis could break out.
Noting that only a few weeks remained before general elections are to be called, Wigemark and Cormack, who in recent weeks organised a number of meetings with leading Bosniak and Croat politicians in the country, said there was less and less time for changes to electoral legislation and that there was a lack of will for a political compromise.
They warned that, if the results of the general election could not be implemented, it would be very difficult to form a government. They noted that they would not impose any solutions, that it was up to local politicians to reach agreement and that changes to electoral legislation were necessary.
Bosnia and Herzegovina’s Constitutional Court in late 2016 partly upheld an application for assessment of the constitutionality of electoral legislation, which Ljubić, chairman of the main committee of the Croat People’s Assembly (HNS), said was discriminating against Croats. Ljubić asked the court to assess, among other things, whether provisions governing appointments to the upper chamber of the parliament of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity were constitutional.
Ljubić argued that Croat-majority cantons cannot choose as many Croat deputies as would reflect the actual electorate. He said that in practice this means that a party that enjoys the majority support among the Croats cannot be proportionately represented in the House of Peoples, as a result of which the seats of Croat deputies are filled by other political parties.
The court found that some of the provisions indeed imply that “the right to democratic decision making solely by legitimate political representation will not be based on the democratic election of deputies to the House of Peoples of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the constituent people that they represent, which is contrary to the principle of constitutionality and equality of any of the constituent peoples.” The court ordered the parliament to align the provisions of electoral legislation with the Constitution.
Cormack and Wigemark said in their statement also that reaching agreement by May on changes to electoral legislation and the Constitution on the election of members of the collective state Presidency was unrealistic. They said that the changes had to be in line with the European Court of Human Rights ruling in the Sejdić-Finci case which ordered that members of minority ethnic groups, too, should be enabled to participate in the election of members of the state presidency.