The EU and the Council of Europe (CoE) warned they will not recognise the results of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s (BiH) local elections this fall, because the government has not amended discriminatory provisions in the country’s constitution.
But BiH’s electoral commission scheduled them for October 7th anyway amid fears of inter-ethnic tensions concerning the central election issue: the Srebrenica genocide.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in 2009 that BiH must amend the constitution’s discriminatory provisions to make eligible Jews, Roma and an estimated 14 other minorities for positions in the presidency and parliament.
The constitution, which was delineated by the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, mentions only the three main peoples in BiH — Bosniaks, Serbs and Croats.
“In the case that yet another parliamentary election is held without any changes being made as requested in the verdict, the international community would not in any case accept such elections and their results,” Thorbjorn Jagland, secretary-general of the Council of Europe, said.
Jagland urged the BiH leaders to complete the constitutional reforms by summer at the latest.
CoE officials previously threatened to suspend BiH from that body, and warned of a possible EU travel ban for BiH officials obstructing implementation of the court’s ruling.
“It is now up to local politicians to introduce the necessary steps. One must admit this is no easy task given the complex and fragmented constitutional and political system. I am convinced these will not be the final constitutional amendments,” Sabina Woelkner, director of Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung Foundation in BiH, told SETimes.
The last attempt at reforms failed in mid-March, when the mandate of the parliamentary commission tasked with constitutional reform expired prior to the deadline set for lawmakers and political parties to agree on a solution.
The commission’s mandate has not yet been extended.
Reforms following the 2010 general elections were also difficult to undertake because the six ruling parties took 15 months to form a new central government. Since, they have failed to achieve much of anything, including passing the budget for fiscal year 2012.
If the budget is not passed by September, the country will not have the necessary funds to organise the October 7th elections.
Meanwhile, nearly 60 political parties are beginning to prepare for the elections in 139 municipalities, though few are expected to pass the threshold.
The campaign focus is on the eastern town of Srebrenica, the site of the 1995 massacre of 8,000 Bosniaks.
In 2008, the BiH electoral commission granted Srebrenica — predominantly a Bosniak town prior to the 1992-95 war — special status to allow Bosniaks who left to vote for mayor. It has not decided to grant such status in the upcoming October vote.”Srebrenica Bosniaks will now be outvoted by the Serb majority, who will be able to install their own mayor for the first time,” Abdurahman Malkic, former mayor of Srebrenica, told SETimes.
Malkic warned such a development will lead to another exodus of Bosniaks from Srebrenica and finalise its being ethnically cleansed. “Srebrenica is not only a political and legal issue, but a moral one, and the world cannot allow deniers of the genocide to rule the town,” he said.
There is every indication of inflamed campaign rhetoric concerning Srebrenica — including the July commemoration of the genocide — and the trial of war-time Serb General Ratko Mladic in The Hague, will lead to inter-ethnic tensions from which only the nationalist parties will benefit.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik has already begun courting nationalist voters. He called Mladic a great military strategist and refused to accept that genocide took place in Srebrenica.
This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.