Bosnia Govt Approves Controversial Laws

Bosnia's state-level government has adopted changes to the electoral law and a law on the Foreign Trade Chamber - both of which have been criticized as undermining state-level institutions.

Bosnia’s government has accepted two controversial laws that formed part of a deal agreed last year between the ruling Social Democratic Party and the main Bosnian Serb party.

Oppostion parties criticised the deal signed in October as an attempt to increase party political control over – and at the same time weaken – key state-level institutions.

The changes to the electoral law and a new law on the Foreign Trade Chamber form part of a package agreed between Zlatko Lagumdzija’s Social Democratic Party, SDP, and Milorad Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD.

Under the amended electoral law, the counting of ballots will in future be done at local and not national level.

Only postal votes and complaints from a municipal electoral commission or a political party will be handled by the Central Electoral Commission.

Bosnia’s constitution has until now placed the electoral process under the overall jurisdiction of state-level authorities and the Central Electoral Commission is currently in charge of the job.

Officials of this institution criticised the planned changes last year, saying they would place the process of election counts under the closer control of political parties.

The SDP-SNSD proposal for closed voting lists also drew criticism as intending to concentrate more power in the hands of party bosses.

Closed voting lists mean that voters will only be able to cast ballots for parties, which will then choose who sits in parliament according to the level of support each party obtains.

The current system allows citizens to vote for a party or to support individual candidates, if they want to do so.

The Council of Ministers, the state-level government in Bosnia, has also approved changes to the law on Foreign Trade Chamber which stipulates different membership fees from those currently in operation.

Duljko Hasic, of the FTC, told Balkan Insight last November after the proposed law was presented that the law was worrying.

This was because the new method of financing the chamber would mean far less money coming in from the membership, which he said would bring the institution to its knees.

Hasic claimed the two parties wanted to undermine another state-level institution as a part of a wider political plan.

Opposition parties meanwhile accused Lagumdzija of caving in to all the terms that Dodik had demanded in order to keep his seat as Bosnia’s Foreign Minister.

The SDP and the SNSD dismiss the complaints. They insist that all the changes will improve the functioning of government and the economy.

Two chambers of the Bosnia’s parliament have yet to approve the changes.