Party tries to bring back 2006 constitutional reform package

NEWS 24.09.2019 12:39
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Source: N1

Social Democratic Party (SDP) lawmakers said on Monday they plan to propose constitutional changes that would significantly change the political architecture of the country, including introducing a single president, but lawmakers from Serb ethnic parties already say they will not support it.

The changes were already on the table more than a decade ago but narrowly failed to be adopted by the Parliament.

The so-called ‘April package’ was back then endorsed by most parties that are still in the parliament. However, the political climate in Bosnia has since then changed.

The package would, above all, introduce a single president and vice-president, elected by the Parliament, as opposed to the current three presidents who are elected directly. It would also strengthen the role of the Parliament, change the role of the upper house and strictly define which issues can be considered a vital national interest.

The changes would also introduce the option of dissolving the parliament if a government – in Bosnia called the Council of Ministers – is not formed.

European integrations would be introduced as part of the Constitution, explained SDP lawmaker, Sasa Magazinovic.

However, the ruling Bosnian Serb party, led by Milorad Dodik, which once supported the package, now vehemently opposes it.

The ‘April package’ belongs in the past, said Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).

“The way the members of the presidency are elected is key. The position of the presidents is not equal. We are against an indirect election and against Bosnia and Herzegovina having one president,” said Lazar Prodanovic, an SNSD member and lawmaker in the upper house.

His party is fundamentally against anything that would strengthen the state-level institutions. The party advocates for a stronger Serb region within Bosnia, the semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity, while Dodik has been advocating for the RS to secede from Bosnia for years.

The party is against the strengthening of the Council of Ministers as well as the weakening of the upper house of the country’s parliament – the House of Peoples, Prodanovic said.

The Bosnian Serb opposition Party for Democratic Progress (PDP) has similar views.

“We have a reality now and it’s called the Dayton Agreement,” said PDP leader, Branislav Borenovic, referring to the peace agreement that ended Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. “It is a constitutional framework that guarantees a wide-enough frame for us to be able to function, to work, to compete in the economy, in attracting investments.”

More than a decade ago, the package was rejected thanks to the votes of the pro-Bosnian Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, led by now-retired Haris Silajdzic.

He explained that even if the package would had been adopted, it still would not solve Bosnia's problems because it would not eliminate ‘entity voting’ – a feature almost unique for Bosnia.

Laws can be passed only if at least one-third of the delegates elected from the territory of each of Bosnia’s two entities vote for them. The feature has proven to be an obstacle as it was frequently misused by nationalists, according to Silajdzic’s party.

Practically, “that is how every vote by a lawmaker coming from the RS (Bosnian Serb) entity is worth twice the vote of a lawmaker from the Federation (the Bosniak-Croat entity in Bosnia, FBiH),” Silajdzic told N1 years ago when he was explaining why he dropped the April package.