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South Slavic: March 2, 2000

2 March 2000, Volume 2, Number 9

What Kind Of Election Law For Bosnia? Part II

Mr. Karabeg: In today's Radio Most (Bridge), we are going to continue to discuss what kind of electoral law Bosnia-Herzegovina should have. Our guests are Sabrija Pojskic, who is a member of the steering committee of the Social Democratic Party of Bosnia-Herzegovina in Sarajevo; and Nikola Spiric, who is president of the Democratic Party of Banja Luka and Krajina.

It seems to me that two completely different views of Bosnia-Herzegovina confront each other in this discussion about the electoral law. What kind of an electoral bill will be proposed depends on the way one sees Bosnia-Herzegovina: whether it is seen as a united state, as politicians from the Federations wish it to become, or as a union of two entities, as is dominantly perceived in the Republika Srpska. In other words, I think that the point is whether one emphasizes the entities or Bosnia-Herzegovina as a whole.

Spiric: The Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the Dayton agreements are absolutely clear about that. Neither Serbs, [Muslims], nor Croats were happy to accept the Dayton agreements. That was a compromise solution. Bosnia-Herzegovina is an internationally recognized state and I think that there is no purpose in asking anyone whether Bosnia is or is not his state. Bosnia is clearly the state of all the citizens and peoples living on its territory, but its territorial composition is not the same as it was in 1990. Bosnia-Herzegovina is made up of two entities: the Republika Srpska and the Federation. Nevertheless, the law drafted by the Social Democratic Party pretends that Bosnia-Herzegovina is made of communities and towns.

You mean that their bill assumes Bosnia-Herzegovina the way it was before the war?

Spiric: That is right. That is what makes this proposal contradictory to the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and to the reality of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the way it is now.

Pojskic: It is not true that our proposition assumes Bosnia-Herzegovina to be the way it was in 1990. We also take the Dayton agreements as our basis. We assume that Bosnia-Herzegovina is a state of citizens and peoples equal in rights, whose internal structure is made up of two entities.... What we insist on is that European and international human rights conventions must be obeyed.

Spiric: By introducing the civic principle and the electoral procedure from 1990, you absolutely deny the fact that there are two entities. The Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina has accepted the principle of the division of authority between the institutions of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the entities. Since the Constitution assumes that principle, the electoral law cannot contradict it.

That is the main problem. I too am nostalgic for Bosnia-Herzegovina, the way it was before the war--just like you and all the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina-- but you cannot bring back the situation of 1990. What people and political parties want is one thing, but things that were written in a document that emerged as a compromise in order to stop the tragedy in Bosnia-Herzegovina is something else.

Pojskic: An electoral law cannot contradict international human rights conventions.

Spiric: After all the things that happened in the war, every attempt to change the Constitution can be perceived as an attempt to impose the will of one side on the other side. That would not be good for the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pojskic: But the Constitution must conform to the European Convention on Human Rights. The balance of forces was different when the Dayton agreements were accepted.

Spiric:In order to modify the Constitution, the approval of the Republika Srpska is needed, among other things.

Mr. Pojskic has mentioned, as an example of human rights abuses, the fact that, according to the electoral law, a Serb from the Federation as well as a [Muslim] or a Croat from the Republika Srpska cannot be elected members of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina. You, Mr. Spiric, think that the present structure of Bosnia-Herzegovina prevents that. Speaking of principles, do you think it is right or not?

Spiric: If we were speaking of some other state, with a different structure, that would have been logical. That would have been logical for Bosnia-Herzegovina as well--the way it was in 1990. Since we all know what happened, how the present Bosnia-Herzegovina is organized, then it is absolutely illogical at present....

I think that such an important issue that concerns all the peoples, such as an electoral law, should conform to the laws and the Constitution currently in force. It does not matter what I would like but what was put in those documents in order to stop the war.

Pojskic: You, Mr. Spiric, keep talking about certain provisions of the Constitution, but I have already told you that there are also other provisions that confirm what I am explaining here.

Spiric: You are for an option that would allow the [Muslims] to outvote the Serbs and the Croats by electing a Serb and a Croat representative of the [Muslims'] own choosing. That would not be good for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Pojskic: That's not so.

Spiric: Come on! A Serb from the Federation who would try to run for the Presidency would not get one single vote in the Republika Srpska. Who needs that, anyway?

Pojskic: Do you think that Zivko Radisic, who presided over the joint presidency for eight months, should have not represented my interests as well, interests of a [Muslim] from the Federation?

Spiric: Radisic must do his job taking care of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its constitutional and judicial system. If Zivko Radisic was there to take care of the interests of the [Muslims] and the Croats, what would Alija Izetbegovic and Ante Jelavic do in the Presidency? Why then we do not have a [single] president instead?

Pojskic: The Presidency is made up of three members who represent three peoples.

Spiric: If the Presidency is made up of three representatives of three peoples, then this does not reflect the civic principle. That principle exists to the extent that individuals feel that they are first of all citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina. But according to the Constitution and the structure of the electorate, the national principle is absolutely dominant. I do not claim that it is a good solution, but it is set down in the Constitution and cannot be modified without consent of all three peoples.

If the Constitutional Court decides that all three peoples are "constitutional" on the entire territory of Bosnia-Herzegovina, I am convinced that it would cause new misunderstandings rather than promote prosperity, economic development, and European integration.

Pojskic: If you are right, then we shall never become a part of Europe.

Spiric: The trouble is that, instead of talking to each others, we keep expecting somebody from Europe to determine our relations.

Pojskic: In order to join the European integration process, we have to make our Constitution and all the laws conform to European standards, no matter what we think of them.

Spiric: I think that we will remain a gray area in Europe as long as we do not understand that we have to talk, to resolve problems through compromise and consensus, and not expect others to solve our problems. We have to solve them ourselves.

If you agree, we should now finish. According to you, Mr. Spiric, what sort of electoral law should Bosnia-Herzegovina have?

Spiric: Bosnia-Herzegovina should have a permanent electoral law that would conform to the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina and its current territorial and political organization. Only compromise and consensus can lead to such a law.... Nevertheless, in order to reach that goal, revisionist political programs must disappear from the political scene, whether they are leftist or rightist.

Pojskic: Of course, I think that the law drafted by the Social Democratic Party conforms to the European Convention and democratic principles. It would be absurd if we adopted a discriminatory law.... With the current electoral law, almost a half of the population of Bosnia-Herzegovina is discriminated against, [Muslims] as well as Croats and Serbs. We propose solutions based on democratic principles instead of on the ethnic one. The ethnic principle takes us back to the past instead of taking us closer to Europe.