US Envoy for Bosnia’s Election Law reform Matthew Palmer and Managing Director of the European External Action Service Angelina Eichhorst agreed on Monday that time is running out for passing credible amendments to BiH Election Law and targeted constitutional changes that would make elections more transparent and accountable.
“We are here to have 3-4 days, maybe longer, of intense discussions with everybody in BiH who have the clear stake in bringing this country into the EU, working on high standards, no discrimination, strengthening institutions and having fully fair elections. We are fully aware, obviously, that this is also the moment where the political crisis is still deeply looming in the country.
Our first meeting was with representatives of the Central Election Committee (CEC), Transparency International and we will meet many more because there are so many questions out there and we want to answer them all in terms of what could be possibly done to make sure there will be elections in October, that these elections will be fair, transparent, there will be no discrimination and that we can make the institutions function,” Eichhorst said in Sarajevo.
She noted that there indeed are “ideas on the table which are being worked on, there are proposals but nothing yet is being agreed, not even discussed in details because we want to make sure that this is a process that is most transparent, most inclusive. But there is one important message here and I want to pass now – time is running out! Time is running out for having credible amendments discussed, debated and voted on. So we have a very clear message here that is time must be respected.”
US Envoy Palmer reiterated the US’ support for Bosnia’s integrity and sovereignty adding that Einchhorst and he came to the country to support efforts and help Bosnian parties reach an agreement on electoral and constitutional reforms.
“The US strongly supports the sovereignty and territorial integrity of BiH. We also support efforts for an agreement on electoral reform and limited, targeted constitutional changes in support of the electoral reform. It is important that elections in BiH are conducted in a fashion that is transparent, that is accountable, that gives the citizenry the confidence that their votes are being counted fairly and that the results of the election reflect the will of the people. We are committed to supporting this process. We are committed to supporting BiH on its path towards the European and Euro-Atlantic future,” Palmer told the press.
Citizens want a transparent reform process
According to Vehid Sehic, a legal expert and head of the Tuzla Citizens Forum he warned the high officials that citizens of this country wanted them to know that the election reform process must be transparent as they are witnesses of differing statements from each meeting, never having a single, united statement or a message from such meetings which is confusing for BiH citizens.
He confirmed that Palmer and Eichhorst are now meeting with a wide range of NGOs and citizens’ representatives to discuss all possible options for the election reforms and hear their opinion.
Sehic, who served as head of the CEC, also warned of the time factor, arguing that should such reforms be adopted too late, the CEC would not be able to adapt to the new Law and it would not be able to hold October 2022 elections in accordance to the amendments.
The incumbent head of the CEC BiH, Zeljko Bakalar, stressed that elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina must be held.
“We pointed out the fact that all changes that need to follow must follow very quickly, given that we as the basic body of the election administration in BiH must prepare every organizational aspect, given that we have different software modules and we must pass a series of bylaws that would adapt the BiH electoral system to possible changes to the Election Law. For all that, there is a need to make every effort to prepare all these bylaws as well as our unique election information system for possibly some new models by the beginning of May, given that we must call elections and be ready in case of the Law reform,” said Bakalar.