The President of the Assembly and a member of the Expert Team of the Institute for Social and Political Research Ivan Vukoja wrote an author’s text dedicated to the critical analysis of the statements of the President of the SDA Bakir Izetbegović given in the show “Live” on BHT1 on April 26, 2021 (https://youtu.be/uHHuc6ohnH8) on the possibility of agreement on amendments to the Election Law of BiH which would implement the relevant decisions of domestic and international courts.
If what Mr. Covic, HNS and HDZ were asking for would be accepted, then there would be no implementation of any of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights, and approximately 10 percent of parliamentarians living in 10 percent of BiH would completely rule Bosnia and Herzegovina. You could never do anything without them again. We are living this situation now because they have control in the Houses of the Peoples, but the changes demanded by the HNS would perpetuate it. And that is of course unacceptable, because that would kill the reason for the existence of civic, left-wing parties. Therefore, everything that is pro-Bosnian, of which there are 55-60 percent, would be compressed in a Bosniak quota of 33 percent. There would be no reason for the existence of Houses of Representatives, for the existence of civic and non-national parties if we were to meet what Mr. Covic asks for. So we have some demands of our own to balance that, reducing the Houses of Peoples to the protection of a vital national interest that would mitigate that, so we’ll see.
Mr. Izetbegović’s statements are part of a unitarist narrative that denies a fundamental principle of the BiH Constitution – the principle of constitutivity and equality of constituent peoples. The constitutivity and equality of Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs does not depend on the number of members of a particular nation. Therefore, Bosniaks, who are more numerous than Croats, cannot be more constitutive and more equal than Croats. The constitutivity of Croats exists exactly in order to protect Croats from the majority of more numerous Bosniaks, so that Bosniaks, due to their numerical superiority, would not make political decisions that would endanger the vital national interests of Croats in BiH.
Precisely because they are less numerous, Croats need constitutional constitutivity. This constitutivity allows them to be equal with Bosniaks and Serbs in bodies of joint or divided administration such as the Presidency of BiH, the Council of Ministers, the House of Peoples, etc. It is necessary for mentioned bodies to have legitimate representatives of all three constituent peoples. Bosniak unitarists are trying to relativize as much as possible, and if possible to abolish, the constitutional principle of constitutivity and equality, that is, the legitimate representation of the constituent peoples.
In addition to being colored by the unitarist narrative, Mr. Izetbegović’s statements are also full of contradictions, incorrect assumptions and wrong conclusions. Let’s go in order.
If what Mr. Covic, HNS and HDZ were asking for would be accepted, then there would be no implementation of any of the judgments of the European Court of Human Rights
Incorrect. HNS BiH proposals to amend the BiH Election Law (EL) do not exclude the implementation of decisions of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR). HNS proposals for the House of Peoples (HP) of FBiH deal only with the legitimate and proportional representation of Croats in the Croat Club of HP of FBiH. Others have their own club in the HP of FBiH, so the ECHR judgments do not apply to it. HNS’s proposal for the Presidency of BiH does not exclude ECHR judgments because it enables all citizens of FBiH both the opportunity to run and the opportunity to vote. True, it is not complete because it does not offer a solution to all ECHR judgments throughout BiH, but it does offer a partial solution to some ECHR judgments. Thus, the HNS proposal does not exclude the implementation of all ECHR judgments.
In addition, the HNS has repeatedly expressed a very clear position that it is possible to implement all relevant decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court and the ECHR and that the HNS does not oppose ECHR judgments but only insists that all relevant decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court should be resolved through electoral and constitutional reforms. It guarantees Croats the right to legitimate representation. It is true that the HNS did not offer a proposal that resolves all relevant decisions of both the CC of BiH and the ECHR, but it is true that such a proposal also was not offered by Izetbegović, or the SDA, or the self-proclaimed “pro-Bosnian bloc”. We are still waiting for a clear statement from Izetbegović, the SDA and the “pro-Bosnian bloc” that they are not against the relevant decisions of the BiH Constitutional Court, i.e. against the legitimate representation of Croats, Serbs and Others.
If what Mr. Covic, HNS and HDZ were asking for would be accepted, then approximately 10 percent of parliamentarians living in 10 percent of BiH would completely rule Bosnia and Herzegovina. You could never do anything without them again. We are living this situation now because they have control in the Houses of the Peoples, but the changes demanded by the HNS would perpetuate it.
Incorrect. HNS also offered a proposal for HP of FBiH in which Croat representatives in assemblies of the cantons that number less than 5.88% of Croats in relation to the total number of Croats in FBiH together elect one delegate to the Croati Club of the HP of FBiH. Therefore, it is a true statement that all Croats in FBiH have the opportunity to vote and be elected to the Croat Club of the HP of FBiH. Therefore, Croat representatives of the HP of FBiH and in the House of Representatives of FBiH do live in all areas of the FBiH and are elected by Croats from all over the FBiH. Given that the FBiH makes up 51% of the territory of BiH, Izetbegović’s claim about 10% of the territory from which Bosnia and Herzegovina is allegedly ruled is incorrect. Who actually has how much power in BiH will be discussed later.
If Izetbegović alluded to the total number of Croats in BiH with the phrase “10% of parliamentarians”, then he was wrong there as well. Namely, 15.4% are Croats in BiH. It is obvious that this is another example of advocating a unitarist narrative that would determine the rights of constituent peoples by their number and not by their constitutional status.
Another inaccuracy in the above quote is the claim that these famous “10% of parliamentarians” would completely rule Bosnia and Herzegovina. It is a hoax that unitarists often and gladly use. In order for someone to completely rule Bosnia and Herzegovina, he would have to have 100% power. Hypothetically, only Bosniaks could be in BiH if BiH became a unitary-civic state with the electoral principle of “one man, one vote” and a unicameral parliament. Then, namely, 50.1% of Bosniaks could have 100% power in BiH. That is the main reason why Bosniak unitarists stand for a “civic” state. In order to prevent that from happening, the category of three constituent peoples was introduced in the BiH Constitution, so that Croats and Serbs would not be completely ousted from power due to the numerical superiority of Bosniaks.
The constitutivity of the Croats, therefore, serves not so that they would rule Bosnia and Herzegovina, but that BiH could not be ruled without the Croats, so that they would not be completely expelled from power. This, among other things, is served by the House of Peoples. And the situation of the current Croat control over the Croat club in the HP of FBiH, which Izetbegović mentions, is not something that the Croats appropriated or kidnapped from someone, but a constitutional and Dayton category.
Therefore, the HNS does not seek to perpetuate any arbitrary current situation, but to ensure the implementation of what is written in the Constitution of BiH and the DPA. The HNS proposal is fully in line with the BiH Constitution and the DPA, even below the level of rights that Croats had in the original Dayton Constitution, while unlike them, the proposals coming from Izetbegovic, the SDA and the “pro-Bosnian forces” directly violate Constitution of BiH and DPA.
And that is of course unacceptable, because that would kill the reason for the existence of civic, left-wing parties. Therefore, everything that is pro-Bosnian, of which there are 55-60 percent, would be compressed in a Bosniak quota of 33 percent. There would be no reason for the existence of Houses of Representatives, for the existence of civic and non-national parties if we were to meet what Mr. Covic asks for
It is a very arbitrary and contradictory statement with a multitude of erroneous assumptions and conclusions. The identification of left and nominally civic parties is not implied without a trace anywhere in the world, let alone in BiH. On the contrary, we are witnessing how the party called the Civic Alliance of BiH is a representative of radical nationalist, statist and chauvinist views. Also, the claim that the adoption of the HNS’s proposal for changes to the EL of BiH would kill the reason for the existence of civic, left-wing parties is unclear and unfounded. HNS’s proposal, as well as the existing Constitution of BiH and EL of BiH, namely allow civic and left parties, if any in BiH, to become their candidate for Croat member of the Presidency of BiH, as well as to take full control over the Croat Club in the HP of FBiH.
The HNS proposal also allows Reuf Bajrović and Bakir Izetbegović to become Croat members of the Presidency. It is only necessary for one of them to win the most Croat votes in the elections for the Presidency of BiH. It is also possible, in accordance with the HNS proposal, that the SDP or Our Party have a controlling stake in the Croat Club of the HP of FBiH. It is enough to win the parliamentary majorities in the cantons with a majority Croat population. I repeat, both the existing Constitution of BiH and the HNS proposal for amendments to the EL enable such an outcome of the elections. Where is the problem? Why should civic and left-wing parties cease to exist if they can participate in all elections and win power at all levels in all parts of BiH?
Izetbegović offers an explanation by placing not only civic and left-wing parties, but also all Bosniak parties in the same framework, and calling the party conglomerate pro-Bosnian. According to that logic, it turns out that all Croat and all Serb parties in BiH are anti-Bosnian, that is, that all Croats and Serbs who vote for them are like that. The previous statement can be considered correct only if the “pro-Bosnian” policy means the struggle for “one state and one people” in which there will be no Herzegovina, no Croats or Serbs.
By classifying himself and his party in the “pro-Bosnian bloc”, Izetbegović tells us that in terms of the structure and character of the state, there is no significant difference between the SDA and, for example, the SDP or Our Party. All members of the “pro-Bosnian bloc” are linked by a common political agenda called unitarism.
I once characterized the policy of unitarism in BiH as a conglomeration of policies with a Bosniak base, a Bosnian superstructure and a civic facade. Izetbegović’s statements strongly support this claim. In order to have no doubt in the Bosniak base of all parties and the policies of the “pro-Bosnian bloc”, Izetbegović openly admits that all parties of the “pro-Bosnian bloc” primarily, and could say, exclusively count on Bosniak votes. And he complains that, according to his estimate, 55-60% of the votes were compressed into the Bosniak quota of 33%.
I think that he exaggerated by a few percent because I believe that the electoral pool of the “pro-Bosnian bloc” carries about 55% of the total electorate. Namely, we get that percentage when we add up 50% of Bosniaks, 1-2% of Others, 1-2% of Croats and 1-2% of Serbs. As much as they adorn themselves with the adjectives of multiethnic, civic and left, parties and coalitions that count on 95% of Bosniak and only 1-2% of Croat or Serb electoral votes must be classified in the Bosniak political bloc. Izetbegović openly admits and does that, but at the same time he complains that the Bosniak (pro-Bosnian) bloc, which carries 55% of the votes, gets only 33% of power. Thus, again, instead of the principle of constitutivity and equality of peoples, he brings to the fore the fact of the demographic number of particular peoples.
Noting that this is unconstitutional and anti-Dayton, it is interesting and useful to ask whether this is exactly as Izetbegović claims, i.e. whether Bosniaks and the “pro-Bosnian bloc” currently have only 33% of power in BiH. We will take into account only the state and FBiH level. At the level of the Council of Ministers, they have 33%, in the Presidency of BiH 66.7%, and in the State House of Peoples 33% of power. At the FBiH level, they have two FBiH vice presidents and a prime minister, and 10 of the 18 FBiH government ministers. However, even more important than the current situation is the fact that Bosniaks, i.e. the “pro-Bosnian bloc”, according to the existing BiH Election Law, have the opportunity, among other things, to take over all power at the FBiH level, to retain 2/3 of power in the BiH Presidency, to take two mandates in the Croat Club of the HP of the Parliamentary Assembly of BiH and part of the Croat quota in the Council of Ministers.
Therefore, if there are no changes in the EL BiH in accordance with the requirements of the HNS, the structure of government after the General Elections in 2022, from the position of the electoral will of the three constituent peoples, could be as follows:
- Presidency of BiH – Bosniaks 2/3, Serbs 1/3, Croats 0/3
- House of Representatives of FBiH – Bosniaks 70,40%, Croats 22,44%, Serbs 2,55%, „Others“ 4,61%; indirectly: Bosniaks 100%
- House of Peoples of the Parliament of FBiH – Bosniaks have „control package“ in all the four clubs (clubs of Bosniaks, Croats, Serbs and Others) and more than 2/3 at the level of entire HP of PFBiH; indirectly: Bosniaks 100%
- President and two Vice-Presidents of FBiH – Bosniaks 100%, Croats 0%, Serbs 0%, Others 0%
- Government of FBiH – Bosniaks 100%, Croats 0%, Serbs 0%, Others 0%
These facts are the main reason why Izetbegović, SDA and the entire “pro-Bosnian bloc” do not want to accept the proposal of the HNS and the constitutional principle of legitimate representation of Croats, Serbs and Others. Stories of alleged political discrimination against Bosniaks in relation to their percentage in the total population are completely unfounded and serve as a smokescreen to cover up the situation in which Bosniaks already have more power not only than the other two constituent peoples, but also more power than their own demographic share of the total population. All such and similar stories and activities of the members of the “pro-Bosnian bloc” are in the function of a) creating an alibi for not accepting the HNS proposal and b) creating a socio-political atmosphere for taking full political and institutional control over FBiH after the 2022 elections.
The interests of citizens, the rights of Others and the verdicts of the ECHR are of interest to Bosniak unitarians from the “pro-Bosnian bloc” only to the extent and in the form in which they contribute to taking complete control over the Federation of BiH and weakening the position of Republika Srpska. Because, let’s not forget, Bosniak unitarists from the “pro-Bosnian bloc” are discriminating not only against Croats, but also Serbs and Others in FBiH.