While the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and Bosnia’s Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH) expressed opposition to the demand of Bosnia’s international administrator to elect the mayor of Mostar through a secret vote in the City Council, the left-leaning BH Bloc coalition said it should be fulfilled.
The new City Council of Mostar held its first session last week where it elected its leadership and formed the clubs of representatives of constituent peoples in the body.
The mayoral vote was, however, postponed because none of the candidates won enough votes and another round was set for February 10.
The candidate of the HDZ BiH, Mario Kordic, and the candidate of the ‘Coalition for Mostar’, led by the SDA, Zlatko Guzin, passed the first round.
Kordic received 14 votes, Guzin 11 and Irma Baralija, the candidate of the BH Bloc coalition, received five votes. Five councillors abstained.
However, according to the international official tasked with overseeing the civilian implementation of the 1995 Dayton Peace Agreement, Valentin Inzko, the vote was not conducted according to the Statute of the City of Mostar as it was public. The vote must be secret, he stressed.
Inzko reminded that he had previously clearly expressed his opinion regarding the application of this provision of the Statute in his decision repealing a conclusion by the City Council from 2009 that said the vote should be public.
“As the final authority in the country regarding the interpretation of the Agreement on the implementation of the civilian part of the Peace Treaty, I call on you to take the necessary steps to remedy this situation by repeating the current procedural steps governing the election of the Mayor of Mostar, including the first round of voting for the mayor, and in this way to harmonize the election procedure fully with the Statute of the City of Mostar, and especially with paragraph 1 of Article 36 of the said Statute,” Inzko said.
According to the HDZ BiH, the annulment of the first round of voting represents “the opening of a legal and political vacuum due to purely procedural matters.”
“The decision on the public election of the mayor is the decision of the absolute majority of City Council councillors and we are unnecessarily entering a confusing situation that could disrupt all the dynamics in the establishment of executive power at the level of the City of Mostar,” the party said.
The SDA also said it resolutely supports the process to continue through a public vote.
“Those who seek a secret vote and call on the OHR to intervene to impose it obviously have no honourable intentions. The entire BiH public, and especially the people of Mostar, want to have a clear picture of who will support Dr. Zlatko Guzin from the Coalition for Mostar, and who will be on the side of Mario Kordic from the HDZ with their direct vote ‘for’ him or their abstention. The vote for the mayor of Mostar 12 years ago, which was conducted in secret, resulted in non-transparent manipulations and the election of HDZ candidates, despite the existence of a pro-Bosnian majority,” the SDA said.
The party said it will not allow for the vote to be secret and asked the Office of the High Representative (OHR) to not interfere with the vote and to respect the will of the majority in the Mostar City Council.
However, Nasa Stranka, one of the parties in the BH Bloc, argued that the “OHR is the legal interpreter of the Statute of the City of Mostar” and that the institution “has a right to comment and decide on whether a decision is in accordance with it.”
“According to their interpretation, the vote had to be secret and we will respect that,” the party said.
Baralija, who is a member of the party, said that the OHR decision could have been expected and that she will not give up on her candidacy.
She said that the city council decided to make the vote public due to “political pressures on the councillors coming from all sides.”
Mostar held its first local election since 2008 in December last year.
The process was enabled after the SDA and HDZ BiH, which were in power in the city, finally reached an agreement on how to implement a 2010 decision by the Constitutional Court regarding the election law for Mostar.