Utorak, 16 srpnja, 2024

Interview of Ivan Vukoja to Slobodna Dalmacija

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Ivan Vukoja Institute for Socio-Political Research (IDPI) Mostar

This week IDPI presented its model of electoral legislation. What is its essence?

Before answering that question, it is necessary to understand the problem that is solved by the IDPI model, which is the election of delegates to the caucuses of the House of Peoples (HoP) of the Parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. HoP have four caucuses: Bosniak, Croat, Serb and Caucus of the Others. The Dayton Peace Agreement (DPA), the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and three decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina (Izetbegović from 2000, Ljubić from 2016 and Čolak from 2017) prescribe and require respect of the principle of legitimate representation of the constituent peoples in their respective caucuses. This means that all Croat delegates to the HoP must be an expression of the Croat electoral will, all Bosniak delegates of the Bosniak electoral will, etc. It implies that the Croats in the FBiH entity form a “specific demos” or a separate electoral unit for the election of 17 delegates to the Croat Caucus in HoP. Bosniaks for Bosniak Caucus, Serbs for Serb Caucus, and members of “other nations and citizens” (national minorities) for 7 delegates to the Caucus of the Others in HoP. The problem with legitimate representation is reflected in the fact that the existing, unconstitutional and anti-Dayton Election Law (EL) enables Bosniaks to elect 10 delegates in the Serb, six in the Croat and all 7 delegates in the Caucus of the Others through electoral engineering. In that case, they can also take over effective control in all four HoP caucuses and completely independently, by their exclusive political will, form the entire executive branch of power in the FBiH entity. The existing EL enables, therefore, that all members of the FBiH Government and the President and two Vice-Presidents are a one hundred percent expression of Bosniak electoral will, since they do not need a single electoral vote of Croats, Serbs and Others to elect these officials. The IDPI model only partially solves this problem by eliminating the possibility of Bosniak taking control of the Croat caucus through electoral engineering and by reducing the possibility of Bosniak control over the Serb and Others’ caucuses, with the condition that decisions are made by the by the absolute majority in the caucuses, instead by 1/3 of delegates by caucus as it is now.

Another problem with the existing EL is that it produces huge differences in the “value of the electoral vote”. All three caucuses of constituent peoples have 17 delegates. It implies that each delegate carries 5.88% of the electoral will of his/her “specific demos”, that is, the constituent people he/she represents. In the Bosnian-Podrinje Canton (BPK), for example, the 2013 Population Census registered 24 Croats, and in the Posavina Canton (PK) 33,600 Croats. The existing EL requires that both cantons’ assemblies elect one delegate to the Croat Caucus in HoP. This means that the electoral vote of Croats in BPK is worth 1,400 times more than the electoral vote of Croats in PK.

The essence of the IDPI model is that each canton receives a coefficient of electoral points (CEP) which is identical to the percentage of Croats/Serbs/Bosniaks/Others in that canton in relation to their total number at the FBiH level. If, for example, there are 10% of Croats in a canton, its CEP for election of the Croat delegates is 10. The first ranked delegate on the list for the Croat caucus HoP carries 5.88 personal electoral points (PEP), i.e. 5.88% of the Croat electoral will, since 100 / 17 = 5.88, and therefore he/she directly enters the Croat caucus in HoP. The second candidate on the list enters the second round of elections with other representatives who have less than 5.88 PEPs and carries 4.12 PEP (10 minus 5.88). In the second round, the rule may be applied that each delegate tries to secure 5.88 PEPs, or that the missing delegates in the second round are elected in the same way as delegates for HoP caucuses are elected in cantonal assemblies. This ensures that each electoral vote within the same specific demos is equally valid in each canton and that each people in each canton effectively participates in the election of representatives of the corresponding HoP caucus.

– In the Sarajevo media and the public, your proposal was immediately declared as HDZ’s one, as something that suits Čović and his team. How do you answer that?

Some of the self-proclaimed “patriotic” and “pro-Bosnian” media and social and political actors do not understand basic constitutional, legal and political concepts or misinterpret them, and some of them are consciously lying and manipulating not only by interpretations of terms and concepts, but also by facts. When they do not understand something, or when it’s not politically acceptable for them, they usually reduce the entire problem to HDZ and Dragan Čović, whom they have already demonized so much that they think that the easiest way to discredit what they don’t like is by linking it to the aforementioned party and its leader. The IDPI proposal is 100% based on the Constitution of BiH and the DPA.

– How much does your proposal differ from what High Representative Schmidt announced with a census of 3 percent per county/canton?

Our proposal, compared to the OHR’s proposal, ensures to a greater extent the equal value of each voter’s electoral vote within each constituent people. Although it does not eliminate it completely, our proposal limits to a lower extent the influence of Bosniak electoral engineering on the election of Croat, Serb and Other’s delegates. Schmidt’s proposal is grouping cantons in which there are less than 3% members of one constituent people and provides those cantons with a common representative in the HoP. In the case of Croats, this means that Una-Sana and Bosnia-Podrinje cantons would have one common representative. Together, those two cantons have 1.02% of the total number of Croats in the FBiH, and they would elect one representative representing 5.88% of the electoral will of the Croats in the FBiH. In this way, the Croats of the Una-Sana and Bosnian-Podrinje cantons would be positively discriminated, under conditions that the Bosniaks do not participate in the election of their common representative, because their vote would be worth almost six times more (588%) than the electoral vote of, for example, the Croats from Posavina or West Herzegovina Canton. Despite all these facts, “patriotic” and “pro-Bosnian” politicians, media and activists accused Schmidt for negative discrimination against members of the constituent peoples, which are less than 3% in a certain canton out of their total population at FBiH level, and publicly claimed that they would not be represented in the respective HoP caucus at all. This is an example of just some of the lies, deceptions and manipulations, which are mentioned earlier.

– In your opinion, did Schmidt turn out to be a coward or a wise man when he gave up imposing election rules at the last moment?

We will see that from the moves he will make after the six-week deadline. In any case, by giving up, he sent a very dangerous message, which is that publicly telling of lies, insults and threats can be a legitimate way of political action that is not only tolerated, but also respected and that can influence the most important political decisions and processes in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Is it realistic to expect that in the six weeks that Scmidt gave, any solution will be reached when it has not been through all these years?

It is not realistic. The already mentioned “patriots” and “pro-Bosnians” not only will not agree with the return of at least part of the stripped rights guaranteed by the DPA and the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina to the Croats in the FBiH, but they are also very radically demanding an additional reduction of those rights, i.e., the complete de-constitution of the Croats and the conversion of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina into the Bosniak entity.

– What can the high representative do if an agreement is not reached? What kind of solution do you expect from him?

I expect him to do his job seriously and responsibly, that is, to fulfil the purpose of his existence. That purpose is advocating, respecting and implementing the basic principles and norms or “spirit and letter” of DPA. This is the main purpose of the existence of the OHR. Fundamental principle or “spirit” of the DPA is the constitutiveness and mutual constitutional and institutional equality of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs. Given that constitutiveness and equality are impossible without the legitimate representation of the constituent peoples in the legislative, executive and judicial institutions that the DPA and the Constitution of BiH intended for the representation of the constituent peoples (Presidency, House of Peoples, Council of Ministers, Constitutional Court, etc.), the OHR has an obligation, among other things, to ensure through the Electoral Law respect and implementation of the principle of legitimate representation. Schmidt’s responsibility is all the greater if it is taken into account that his predecessors W. Petritsch and P. Ashdown are directly responsible for the existing constitutional-legal and political crisis. Instead of interpreting and implementing the “letter” of the DPA in accordance with its “spirit”, OHR, in the name of strengthening the statehood and functionality of BiH, very often relativized and violated the basic principles of the DPA and interpreted and implemented the “letter” of the DPA in a way contrary to his “spirit”. Regardless of the subjective motives, the objective consequences of such actions of the OHR were the disruption of the “balance of power” established by the DPA, which resulted in the radicalization of political demands in the form of strengthening separatism and unitarism, and all this together drastically weakened trust in the state and led to many blockades and a never-greater institutional, political and security crisis. C. Schmidt has a historical opportunity, but also a legal, political and moral obligation to correct at least part of the mistakes of his predecessors.

– Has the so-called civic opposition from Sarajevo completely exposed themselves through protests in front of the OHR building and shown that there is no difference between them and the SDA, that is, that it all boils down to Bosniak unitarism and how to impose on the Croats six “suitable” candidates for the Croat Caucus in the House of Peoples?

Yes. For those familiar with the deep-rooted relationships in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s politics, this has been obvious for decades. It is good that representatives of the international community in Bosnia and Herzegovina, as well as the entire public in Croatia, are becoming more and more aware of this.

– How do you interpret Iztebegović’s count of hunters, guns, drones?

As the third component of the strategy of achieving political goals by “lies, insults and threats”. But here I want to emphasize that things in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not black and white. Bosniaks as a people are in a very complex situation. Their radicalism is largely fueled by the fear of Croat and Serb secessionism. In the case of the Croats, this fear is, I am sure, completely unfounded, which cannot be said for the Serbs. Serb secessionism in RS is objectively existing political agenda and as such is largely independent of Bosniak unitarism and radicalism.

– Reis Kavazović came out with the same statement a few days later. Is this a sign that the Islamic community is Iztebegović’s biggest stronghold, guardian?

Unfortunately, yes. This is being talked about more and more publicly in Sarajevo itself, including the fact that the Islamic Community was even operationally involved in the last election of Željko Komšić. Here I note that things in Bosnia and Herzegovina are not black and white. Although I have a certain understanding of the relationship between the SDA and the Islamic community, I say unfortunately because I think it would be good for the SDA – which is, after all, the largest and most influential Bosniak party in BiH – to clearly and strongly distance itself from the Islamic Declaration, the Muslim Brotherhood and similar ideologies and organizations. That would be good, not only for SDA as a party, but also for Bosniaks as a whole, but also for overall political and inter-ethnic relations in Bosnia and Herzegovina.

– Does this kind of Bosniak blowing the same horn suit Dragan Čović and his HDZ and are Bosniaks actually delaying the moment when political pluralization will occur among Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Yes, the current situation is a big obstacle to serious party pluralism among Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Full implementation of the principle of legitimate representation would certainly give a strong incentive to Croat political pluralism and reduce the dominance of the HDZ. And that, in the end, would be good not only for the Croats, but also for HDZ BiH itself.


Zoran Šagolj, Slobodna Dalmacija Saturday 6th August 2022 (pages 24 – 25)
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