Bosnia's high representative announces controversial electoral law reform

Mon, 3 Oct 2022 6:52 GMT
While voters were at polls, Christian Schmidt announces decisions, claiming they 'ensure' votes are counted, democratic will 'respected'
Bosnia's high representative announces controversial electoral law reform

The High Representative of Bosnia and Herzegovina announced on Sunday that he had enacted the controversial electoral law reform, using his "Bonn powers."

After polls closed in the Balkan country's presidential and parliamentary votes, Christian Schmidt claimed that he signed two decisions for the functionality and timely implementation of the election results in the document that he called the "functionality package" and added that the decisions were related to the government and coalition building processes.

"To the voters, to you, I want to say that, while you were at the polls and voted, I made decisions to ensure that your vote counted and that your democratic will was respected. You have shown your responsibility by voting democratically. Now, your voting will must be respected," Schmidt said in a letter to the public.

Voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina headed to the polls on Sunday to choose lawmakers at the canton, entity, and national levels, as well as the three members of the Presidential Council.

About 3.3 million people are estimated to have voted for members of parliament in the country's two entities -- the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Republika Srpska -- as well as 10 cantons within the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Voters are also choosing representatives for the Presidential Council and the national parliament.

Bosnia Herzegovina's political structure is often dubbed as one of the most complicated in the world.

In his letter, Schmidt said the legal changes would not affect Sunday's elections.

Schmidt said the changes he enacted were necessary for Bosnia to progress on its way to EU candidate status.

"Necessary legislative or executive decisions lack transparency or they are simply blocked and not implemented. It is crucial for the fate of this country that there are no more blockages.

"That is why I have imposed measures that will improve the functionality of the institutions in the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina. They will enable all citizens to their voices are heard and to ensure that they are truly represented by those they have elected," he alleged.

According to Schmidt, the measures are aimed at improving the functionality of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and ensuring timely implementation of the results of the October 2022 elections.

While the US Embassy in the capital Sarajevo supported Schmidt's decision, it remains unclear how politicians will react.

Allegations of new election law

Even before Schmidt's announcement, reports were circulating in the country that the high representative would impose a new election law.

Media reports in July reported that by Aug. 1, the German politician would impose such measures on the functioning of Bosnia's federation.

The expected new law would determine how delegates are chosen from the House of Peoples, the upper chamber of the Bosniak-Croat Federation entity's parliament.

If the law would be put in place, the founding nations of Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs will lose representatives of their ethnic community in a federation canton if their population there is less than 3%.

Under the current election law, at least one Bosniak, one Croat, and one Serb delegate are elected from each canton.

This would be the third time Schmidt uses the so-called "Bonn powers" after assuming office in August 2021.

The first time he did it was to annul a law on immovable property in Republika Srpska, the Serb-dominated entity.

The second time, Schmidt used his "Bonn powers" to finance the country's general elections on Oct. 2, allocating €6.5 million ($6.97 million) for the Central Election Commission.

The Office of the High Representative was established with the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 war in Bosnia Herzegovina.

The office oversees the implementation of the peace agreement on behalf of the international community. The high representative also coordinates the activities of international institutions operating in the country.

The high representative has the authority to dismiss anyone who interferes with the implementation of peace in the country, including members of the Presidential Council, and to pass laws as necessary.

The powers are dubbed "Bonn powers."


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