The Central Election Commission (CEC) decided on Wednesday to disqualify Ujedinjena Srpska (United Srpska), a political party active in Bosnia's Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) entity, from the November 15 local election because of a promotional video that was qualified as hate speech.
United Srpska is a political party based in Republika Srpska, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
The video that was posted on YouTube and social networks features three young men sitting in a cafe and discussing politics. Every one of them speaks in an overly stereotypical dialect - Bosniak, Albanian and Croatian - about how they harmed Serbs in one way or another.
A man then walks in, bangs his fist on the table and tells them that “Republika Srpska is now united!”
The three young men run out of the cafe, horrified.
Although the video was met with criticism, it was mostly the subject of ridicule across the region.
The CEC declared the video a violation of the Election Law, removed the party ‘Ujedinjena Srpska’ (United Srpska, US) from the ballot and fined its leader, Nenad Stevandic, with 10,000 BAM.
Stevandic said he will appeal the CEC ruling and take the case to the court.
"It is all a para-intelligence game and it was done on the orders of the DF and SDA,” Stevandic said, referring to the main Bosniak party in the country, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the centre-left Democratic Front (DF), which are part of the ruling coalition at the state level.
"The decision is unsustainable and everything will be legally clarified very soon,” he said.
“The CEC members do not know how to conduct elections and are trying to divert attention from their incompetence by creating scandals," he said, adding that the punishment is a “discrimination against one nation and its legitimate political representatives, which is unsustainable.”
The party previously claimed that the video was not targeting members of other nations but was calling for a unification of Serbs.
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik, a member of the country’s tripartite presidency, called the CEC decision “scandalous” and the result of a plot by the Bosniak leadership and his Serb opponents.
If Ujedinjena Srpska is really prevented from taking part in the election, Dodik said his party will call on all coalition partners to reconsider their participation and accused the CEC of jeopardizing the election process and democracy itself.
On the other hand, the DF party from the other Bosnian entity, the Federation (FBiH), welcomed the decision, saying that the election process should not be marked by “chauvinistic propaganda” and that participants must refrain from using nationalistic hate speech that causes any group of citizens to feel jeopardized.
Political analyst Ivana Maric also welcomed the CEC decision, expressing her disbelief on Facebook.
"People, what is happening here? Don’t tell me this is turning into a state ruled by the law. A frenetic applause for the CEC,” she wrote.
Dragan Bursac, a journalist and columnist from Banja Luka, described the CEC move as fabulous, adding that nationalistic xenophobes should not be at large, let alone participate in elections.
"Ops! So the CEC has been useful for a change,” he tweeted.