With 14 votes "for" and one vote "against", on July 7, the House of Peoples of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH adopted the Bill on Amendments to the Election Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which refers to the elections in Mostar. This made it possible to hold elections in Mostar for the first time in 12 years, less than a month after the deadline set by the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg for BiH.
Namely, Mostar's citizen Irma Baralija sued Bosnia and Herzegovina for not having elections in this city since 2008. On October 29, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in her favor and ordered the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina to amend the Election Law, no later than six months after the verdict becomes final, in order to enable local elections in Mostar. One month before the deadline, on June 17th, the leaders of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BIH) reached an agreement on holding elections.
Journalist and activist Štefica Galić, Member of the FBiH Parliament and Mostar's citzens Lana Prlić and politician and political analyst from Democratization Policy Council (DPC) Bodo Weber spoke for interview.ba about what this year's elections mean for Mostar and the people of Mostar, whether it is a step forward towards a democratic society or something completely different.
“Nobody asks the citizens except pro forma.” - said Štefica Galić, who believes that these elections are just a legitimation of the current status as she continues:
“Of course, this is just legitimizing the status quo and, together with the EU representatives, waving the word "democracy", which has escaped abuse, and is nowhere to be found. This is a defeat for what Europe emphasizes as "its values" and whose representatives congratulate the party leaders on their "success". Yet by the elections themselves, citizens will be given the opportunity to deal with those who have brought the City to this position in the last thirty years. Although it doesn't seem realistic to me after all.”
For federal MP Lana Prlić, party agreements and adopted changes to the election law are anything but "democratic":
“It only means that Mostar will have elections. The process of making a decision and choosing a model is anything but democratic. I must mention that 9 parties participated in creating the model for the elections in Mostar. In the end, two parties and people who do not live in Mostar came out with the Model B in front of the parliamentarians, while a meeting of the presidents of the 3 national political parties was held in parallel, and voting in the BiH Parliament was based on that principle.”
Political analyst Bodo Weber openly calls the party leaders' agreements and adopted changes a "dirty deal":
“The Mostar agreement has all the characteristics of a "dirty deal", achieved with the support of the EU and the West, which makes everything even worse. The main factors are all previous failed agreements created by the EU, such as the largely failed Reform Agenda, etc., and written consents or adoption of laws by urgent procedures as we saw on July 7 in the Parliamentary Assembly, all with EU support, is in stark contrast to the fact that the European Commission has been writing in every (progress) report for years about ending the undemocratic practice of adopting key laws through an urgent procedure” - Weber believes and adds:
“Even more worrying is the written commitment or rather the political agreement on the principles leading to the reform of the BiH Election Law. The announcement of resolving all problems related to the election law, from the Sejdic-Finci verdict to other court verdicts to the recommendations of the ODIHR and the Venice Commission, which cannot be agreed upon for more than a decade - will now be in just 6 months!
The agreement of only two federal parliamentary parties HDZ and SDA, defining the term "legitimate political representatives of the constituent people" is pure HDZ BiH ideological terminology, as a key "reform" principle!”
The elections in Mostar are a continuation of the previous trade in lives and property?
How much it is possible to believe that the changes to the Election Law on the issue of Mostar will really be implemented in practice, when they were agreed by the same political parties that blocked the election process all these years, is a question asked these days by citizens and many independent analysts.
Štefica Galić answered shortly for interview.ba - that she doesn't believe in any way!
“These parties have kept Mostar in isolation for thirty years, not just 12, with the fact that the HDZ has kept it under siege for 9 months. I trust them with absolutely nothing. The dismissals in the BiH Election Commission raise hopes that the elections could be regular, which enables the opposition in Mostar to prevent these "coalition partners" from having a two-thirds majority in the Mostar City Council and the continuation of the current trade-in our lives and property. But we'll see what happens.” - warns Galić.
Prlić is also skeptical about the regularity of the election process, especially the counting of votes, recalling her own experience:
"Each ballot box that subsequently opened in 2018 did not coincide with the first election results and reports. I personally filed two criminal charges against persons who were found by the CEC to conduct elections irregularly as members of polling stations.
Until electronic voting, counting, is introduced, unfortunately, we cannot expect fair elections, and we will witness the electoral will of the counters, not the voters."
The amendments to the Statute of Mostar, together with the amendments to the electoral system for Weber, are in fact the strengthening of the ethnic veto, ie the further establishment of the corrupt division of power on the ethnic principle:
“This has nothing to do with democracy. If you want your democratic voice to matter, you must first have a political choice. Without the right choice or that your choice has any impact on the way people manage. When democracy exists only pro forma, and not essentially, you have Hungary and Poland and not European liberal democratic values.”