19 March 2011

A Coup d'Etat


In Bosnia and Herzegovina the SDP-SDA coalition held what it deemed a constituent session of the House of Peoples of the Federation which then supposedly confirmed the new government of the Federation. Trouble is the Central Electoral Commission of BiH has stated unequivocally that such a move before all delegates for the House have been certified by the Commission would be unconstitutional. The delegates from the Croatian-majority cantons of the Federation how not jet been elected - due to Croat obstruction in protest of the plans of the SDP to sideline them - and thus can not be certified. Only 33 delegates were in attendance, though the House has 58 seats. Indeed this is a technicality, but technicalities are the bread and butter of law.

The disregard for the Constitution did not end here however. By law a government needs not only be confirmed by a validly constituted House of Peoples, such a mandate requires at least one third support from the Croat members of the House. Since the House reserves 17 seats for Croats this means 6 votes. The SDP-SDA received only 5 (from the Croats elected in majority-Muslim cantons who are members of Muslim parties), but absurdly claimed this was sufficient since it represented more than a third of the representatives in attendance. Put otherwise, the self-proclaimed new government of the Federation is doubly illegal.

The Croat parties have declared they do not recognise this government, which means the Croat-majority cantons will neither. Various Croat office holders installed by the previous parliament or government have declared their intention to refuse to vacate them. The largest Bosnian Serb party, the SNSD, has declared this move by the SDP and SDA makes any coalition with them on the central state level impossible, which means there will be no government formed on the state level for the foreseeable future. The Croats have already staged protest rallies in a number of towns on Thursday, though they were rather small on the account of the short notice. More are expected in the future.

Lest the SDP and SDA retract, eg by acquiescing to repeat elections, it is not out of the question Croat-majority cantons and municipalities will link themselves in some way, paving a way for a de facto Croatian autonomous unit. That is certainly the wish of the Croat voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina, it remains to be seen if their politicians have the guile to take up the challenge. A situation where five and a half months after the elections the government had not jet been formed was deemed an "impasse" and a cause of "deep concern" for both Brussels and Washington, but after this escalation it is now a real crisis. It is certainly not the end of things, as the present situation is unsustainable and calls for a resolution.

This is the largest crisis in the Federation since 2001 when a Croat declaration of self-administration was answered by a forceful crackdown by SFOR. Nowadays however the EUFOR occupation force numbers a paltry 1,600 troops from 26 different nations. This time around, however else it ends, it does not end with the foreigners rolling down the streets of western Mostar.

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