How politicians influence parliamentary representation in the Balkans
Politicians are attempting to alter the balance of power through illegitimate representation among the region’s diverse ethnic population, writes Željana Zovko MEP.
Brussels (Brussels Morning) After more than a month after parliamentary elections in Kosovo, there is a new political question on everyone’s mind. Whether Adrijana Hodžić from the civic initiative Ujedinjena zajednica will win a mandate in the Assembly of Kosovo, guaranteed for the Bosniak community, should she receive the majority of votes from municipalities with a Serb majority. The Supreme Court of Kosovo gave its resounding answer to this question: No, she cannot.
Kosovo’s early parliamentary elections were held on 14 February, with representatives of traditional Bosniak and Roma communities in Kosovo appealing the final results. They believed that the Serb List, the Kosovo Serb party backed by Belgrade, manipulated election results in places reserved for these communities to increase their power and influence in the Kosovo Parliament.
In other words, through its electorate, the Serb List is trying to exert influence and control some of Kosovo’s minority communities. There is a similarity with the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina, where most of the population, Bosniaks, elect a Croat member of the Presidency, thus increasing their power and influence.
The Central Election Commission of Kosovo found that the winning Bosniak and Roma representatives received the majority of votes from Serb communities and not their own. The parties received more votes in Serb-majority municipalities than in predominantly Bosniak and Roma municipalities, prompting allegations that it was a scheme created by the Kosovo Serb party. Then, the Supreme Court of Kosovo confirmed what the Central Election Commission determined that the votes received by Adrijana Hodžić are disproportionate to the number of inhabitants of the Bosniak community.
Such votes are invalid since it is an undemocratic standard that the votes of one community ensure the rights of representatives of other communities, and as such, cannot be an objective link between the voter and the subject being voted for. In this case, Adrijana Hodžić received the majority of votes from the Serbian community and it represents a deviation from the will of the Bosniak voters, which essentially means undermining the election process and its integrity.
Attempting to create such a practice, for one community to vote en masse for another, poses a risk that precludes an objective right of representation. Therefore, it is not enough just for a person representing a certain community to make statements supporting it, there must also be an objective connection between the statement and its ethnicity, language, religion or nationality, which the Supreme Court of Kosovo confirmed.
The Court considers that the statement of a person running for one political entity is not enough to validate a candidate competing for reserved seats. If he is not in an objective relationship with the community in the ethnic sense, he cannot meet the conditions for candidacy and represent the community with reserved seats. Otherwise, there would be a distortion of effective community representation. Therefore, any community that has more voters than others can take advantage of this method of election and then dictate the behavior of the representatives who won seats with the votes of members of other communities.
In Bosnia and Herzegovina, this scenario has played out for years with Željko Komšić, who is already a two-term member of the Presidency — between 2006 and 2014. Then, in 2018, he became a Croat member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina for the third time, but like the previous two times, he was elected predominantly by Bosniak votes, while in areas where mostly Croats live, he received a negligible number of votes. This case shows us how the political will of the Croatian people is ignored and how Komšić’s office is being imposed on them, an illegal and illegitimate representative.
We can see the basis for this in that the Election Law has not been amended and in the inconsistency of the Election Law with the Constitution, which the Constitutional Court confirmed.
The Constitutional Court challenged the Election Law under which Komšić was elected. It emphasised in the verdict that the umbrella principle of the Constitution is constitutive of the peoples. It clearly shows that the election of Komšić is a political project and not an accidental incident that can be justified by law.
It’s also important to remember that the current Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina does not recognise the category of ‘citizens’ representatives’ in the Presidency, which the advocates of the unitary idea from Sarajevo are systematically trying to place in the public. We have three members in the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina and they are representatives of the three constituent peoples. We can talk about the citizens’ representative, which is a category that is in complete conflict with the umbrella principle of the constituency of the people, only if there is a change in the Constitution.
Thus, representation is always linked to legitimacy, and legitimacy is given by those who elect their representative. Croats elected their representative; however, political elites of the Bosniak constituent people prevented that choice by imposing their will. The election of Komšić as the Croatian member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina caused great dissatisfaction among Croats in that country and Croatia.
He was elected by votes that came mostly from Sarajevo, Bihać and Podrinje, parts of the country where very few or no Croats live. Therefore, he is seen as an illegitimate representative of Croats.
It is not surprising that in such a development, Bosniaks as the most numerous people, would take full political control over the country, while Croats and Serbs reduce to minorities, large, but still minorities.
The election of Komšić has weakened Bosnia and Herzegovina and has further shaken the inter-ethnic trust. Therefore, Bosnia should, like Kosovo, protect the rights of all communities. But the real question is, when will it actually do so?