Bosnia’s electoral commission has announced the country will hold presidential and parliamentary elections on October 2.
Wednesday’s announcement came despite the failure of rival ethnic leaders to agree on electoral reforms and the lack of funding for the vote.
Nearly 3.4 million registered voters will elect Croat, Serb and Bosniak members of the tripartite presidency and lawmakers for parliament’s lower house, plus regional leaders and assemblies, the Central Election Commission (CIK) said.
If the elections go ahead, it will be the second time voting has been conducted according to electoral rules that do not include changes sought by Croat nationalists looking to bolster their representation in national institutions.
The Balkan country is going through its worst political crisis since the end of the 1990s war, with Bosnian Serbs challenging state institutions as part of their longtime bid to secede and Croats warning about political consequences if the voting is held under the current election law.
Dragan Covic, the leader of the largest Croat party, HDZ, warned in a letter to international officials on Wednesday that holding the polls would be a “direct threat to peace and political stability in Bosnia”.
Bosnia has been governed along ethnic lines since a 1995 peace deal ended a four-year war splitting the country into two autonomous regions, the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, which are linked by a weak central government.
The minority Croats fear that Bosniaks, who are the majority in the Federation they share, will choose their representatives in the presidency and the parliament’s house of peoples.
They have proposed changes that would enable new, ethnically-based electoral districts where people would vote only for their own community’s representatives at all levels of governance including the presidency.
But talks on reforming election law, held last year under the auspices of the European Union and the United States, failed as Bosniaks rejected their proposals in fear they could be a manoeuvre to forge a separatist Croat entity reminiscent of Bosnia’s devastating 1992-1995 war.
Now Covic says Croats will kick off legal and political procedures for establishing a new institutional and territorial organisation of Bosnia that will secure their national rights, a move already announced by the Croat informal political body and seen by analysts as violating the peace accords.
Another problem is that the central government has still not adopted the 2022 budget in which the electoral funding is meant to be earmarked, something the electoral commission said is an illegal obstruction to the process.
The funding needed to hold the elections must now be secured within two weeks, the election commission said. The officials declined to comment on the political issues.