Will Parties agree on the BiH Election Law soon?

As previously reported, following the July 2017 decision of the BiH Constitutional Court repealing provisions of the BiH Election Law related to indirect elections to the Federation House of Peoples, parties have sought to address this issue.

Although the EU and the United States Embassy in BiH have facilitated talks between political parties, with OHR support, the parties’ positions have not moved substantially since negotiations began in October 2017. The Sarajevo-based parties continue to interpret the decision in the “Ljubic Case” as requiring that the electoral rules be brought into conformity with the principles contained in the Federation Constitution (which were not formally addressed by the Court), particularly the rule that requires each canton to elect at least one delegate from each constituent people if there is such a delegate in its assembly and the rule that until Annex 7 to the GFAP is implemented, 1991 census figures should apply for calculations requiring demographic data. The Croat parties (mainly HDZ BiH) continued to advocate that their delegates be elected in a manner that gives them “legitimate representation,” i.e. representation primarily from those cantons where Croats constitute a majority.

Starting in June, a group of parties in the Federation has sought to address this issue through a proposed law at the Federation-level, while Croat representatives have rejected this approach. The Federation House of Representatives adopted the proposal in June, but machinations in the Federation House of Peoples saw disputes over quorum, rules governing the vital national interest procedure and attempts to remove a deputy speaker. Although still in procedure, the law is unlikely to be adopted without a political agreement.

In 54th report on BiH to the United Nations, it is written that this issue is further complicated by a January 2018 request submitted by the then BiH House of Representatives Chair Borjana Kristo (HDZ BiH) challenging a provision of the Federation Constitution related to one of the principles concerning the composition and selection of delegates of the Federation House of Peoples, according to which, “[i]n the House of Peoples there shall be at least one Bosniak, one Croat and one Serb from each Canton that has at least one such delegate in its legislative body.” As of this report, it remains to be seen when the Court will continue to deliberate and decide on the case.

The absence of provisions regulating the election of delegates to the Federation House of Peoples could complicate the process of government formation following the 7 October General Elections. The process of forming legislative and executive authorities at state, entity and cantonal levels is a combination of direct and indirect elections beginning at the cantonal level. The formation of the upper chambers of state and entity parliaments depends on the prior election of Federation House of Peoples delegates by cantonal assemblies, whereas the election of the Federation President and Vice Presidents and the Federation Government depends on the ability of both houses of the Federation Parliament to meet.

“My office continues to closely follow developments regarding the implementation of the “Ljubic Case” decision and its potential impact on the process of government formation after the 2018 General Elections”, was stated by Inzko.

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