Bosnia: Planned election law will play into the hands of nationalists

A “three-percent-hurdle” would contribute significantly to a division of the country

The Society for Threatened Peoples (STP) has warned against the plans of High Representative Christian Schmidt regarding an amendment to the election law in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The human rights organization fears that his plans to implement a “three-percent-hurdle” in the cantons of the federation would contribute significantly to an increased ethnicity-based division of the country, and, in consequence, even to a new war in Europe.
“If Schmidt were to actually alter the constitution of the federation as planned, this would play into the hands of nationalists in all parts of the country,” stated Belma Zulcic, Director of the Bosnian section of the STP, on Tuesday. “This would be the end of the moderate forces in the country, whose members and supporters are not primarily concerned with issues of ethnicity and with nationality politics. Further, he would be ignoring several rulings by the European Court of Human Rights – which has already stated that even the existing election law is to be seen as discriminatory, emphasizing that all the people of the country must have the same chances of casting their votes in elections and by able to run for offices.
“Apparently, Schmidt is planning to implement a constitutional change according to which population groups with less than three percent share of the population will no longer be able to send representatives to the House of Peoples, the first chamber of the parliament. “With this, he is following the discriminatory policy of the nationalists who are aiming to cement the ethnic division of Bosnia instead promoting democratic processes in the country,” Zulcic criticized. As a consequence of the war in Bosnia, Bosniaks and Croats are only small minority groups in the Serb-administered Republika Srpska – just like the Serb people in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
It is especially the Croat MEPs and Zoran Milanovic, the Croat President, who are demanding changes to the election laws in the federation. Croat nationalists are trying to seize power in the south of the federation, to legitimize their exclusive representation and exclude all members of other population groups from political offices.