Legal stalemate could unravel 2018 elections in BiH

October election results in Bosnia and Herzegovina could be compromised if the state continues to ignore a constitutional court order to amend its election law.

Tijana Cvjeticanin
Tijana Cvjeticanin Istinomjer, Bosnia and Herzegovina
Source: Istinomjer
Legal stalemate could unravel 2018 elections in BiH - NewsMavens
A ballot box. Wikimedia Commons

Why this story matters:

The political system of Bosnia and Herzegovina can seem puzzling to outsiders, with its many layers of government and controversial restrictions on voting rights for residents other than Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs.

Reaching a compromise in a set-up like this can be difficult, so no one is surprised that BiH finds itself in a political stalemate again. But the state's refusal to follow a court's order and change its election law could throw this year's parliamentary election results into turmoil.

In December 2016, the constitutional court of BiH “outlawed” election law provisions that determine how delegates in the House of Peoples of the Federation of BiH Parliament are appointed. The parliament was given six months to amend the law. Lawmakers, however, missed the deadline.

Consequently, the election provisions are no longer in effect, leaving no legal basis to “populate” the entity parliament after elections. The way things have been developing in the past year leaves little hope that parliamentary parties will come to a consensus in time for the October elections.

This is a deep constitutional crisis that's looming over the already politically troubled state. Not only does this crisis threaten the basic human rights of those living in BiH, it risks destabilizing the entire region with political conflict.

politics, conflict

Details from the story:

  • Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitution recognizes “Bosniaks, Croats, and Serbs, as constituent peoples (along with others), and citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
  • The political system is established on the principle of equal representation of constituent peoples, while the vague category of “other” people are denied certain political rights.
  • Three rulings from the European Court of Human Rights have stated that BiH must change its constitution to provide all citizens with equal voting rights. Those requirements have not been implemented.
  • The BiH Constitutional Court reiterated the primacy of “constituent peoples” in its political system in 2016.
  • Legal experts say that court's decision can't be implemented without changing the Federation of BiH's constitution, so even if the election law is amended, the legal mess could continue.

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