Changing Bosnia’s Election Law so it can guarantee that Croats can elect their own representative in Bosnia is key to democratic stability, top Croatian and Bosnian Croat officials said after a meeting in Zagreb on Saturday.
Dragan Covic, the still acting Croat member of Bosnia’s Presidency who lost the October 7 election to the moderate Bosnian Croat Zeljko Komsic, met with the Croatian President, Prime Minister, Speaker of Parliament and Deputy PM.
The Presidency of Bosnia is composed of three members, each representing one of the three ‘constituent’ peoples, and decisions require their consensus.
The Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ, is the ruling party in Croatia and Covic is the leader of the party’s branch in Bosnia. He lost the election for the Croat seat in the Bosnian Presidency to left-leaning candidate Komsic, the leader of the Democratic Front (DF).
Bosnia is composed of two territorial and political semi-autonomous entities, the Bosnian Serb-majority Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation (FBiH), shared by Croats and Bosniaks. While the Serb Presidency member is elected from the RS, the Bosniak and Croat members are elected in the Federation.
However, since there are many more Bosniaks than Croats in the Federation, Croat nationalist parties have been complaining that Bosniaks are able to elect the Bosnian Croat Presidency member.
They said that this has already happened twice before and that it happened again in the General Election on Sunday, when Komsic won. Komsic is, according to the HDZ, not a legitimate representative of Bosnian Croats.
The Bosnian Croats have been supported by EU member Croatia in their efforts to change Bosnia’s Election Law and harmonize it with the country’s Constitution which says that each of the three ‘constituent’ peoples have the right to elect their own representatives in the government.
But Bosnia’s Constitution is violating the European Convention on Human Rights by discriminating minorities from ever becoming president or sitting in the upper house of the parliament.
So if now the Election Law would be harmonized with the Constitution and further prescribe that voters in Bosnia can only vote for members of their own ethnic groups, it would lead to more human rights violations and take the country farther away from the desired EU membership, opponents of such changes argue.
A Bosnian Croat politician sued at the country’s Constitutional Court, complaining that his constitutional rights are violated because other ethnic groups can elect his representative. He won the case in 2016, but prior to that lawsuit, a Jew and a Roma sued Bosnia at the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg because the country’s constitution is not letting them be presidents.
They won too.
The two rulings are conflicting and non-nationalists in Bosnia are leaning toward trying to implement the Strasbourg ruling while nationalists insist on the Bosnian Constitutional Court ruling.
Election Law changes “must ensure an autonomous choice, equal and legitimate representation of Croats as constituent people,” a statement after Saturday’s meeting in Zagreb said.
“The Republic of Croatia will continue to support the legitimate Croat requests for equality in the context of changes of the Election Law but also the right to fully participate in the decision making process on all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina as the Constitution and its basic principles have defined,” the statement said.