Party leaders, analysts and citizens say postponing the local elections is anything but a cost-cutting measure.
By Drazen Remikovic for Southeast European Times in Sarajevo -- 10/04/12
Many voters argue that postponing the BiH local elections will not produce substantive changes but would extend the ruling parties' mandate by two years. [Reuters]
A suggestion by the two largest political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) to postpone the upcoming local elections for two years is facing opposition, both from other parties and some voters.
The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats and the Party of Democratic Action say their suggestion, to combine local elections with general elections in 2014, would streamline BiH's costly election process.
Many party leaders in BiH, however, said the proposal is intended to extend the two parties' mandate, which has been wrought with economic difficulties. Preparations for the fall election have already begun, and an election date for October is expected to be announced next month.
"It is not an attempt to improve the election process, but to extend their long-standing rule which has led this country to a catastrophic situation," Zoran Djeric, vice president of the Party of Democratic Progress, told SETimes.
"Voting is a constitutional right for all BiH citizens and our party will definitely not support the initiative," Djeric said.
The suggestion to combine elections has some precedent in the Balkans. Serbia is holding local, parliamentary and presidential elections on May 6th. Macedonia cited cutting costs in its decision to hold local and presidential elections on the same day in 2009.
While the smaller parties in BiH categorically rejected the proposal, the Social Democratic Party, having recently gained much publicity after Vice President Zeljko Komsic resigned and then withdrew the resignation, has not yet taken a stand.
Some view the proposal as an attempt by the two largest parties in BiH to attract voter attention away from the Komsic-Social Democratic Party discussion.
"It is one of a series of moves deflecting attention from the important things," Lela Shehovic, a 41-year-old Tuzla lawyer, told SETimes.
Nevertheless some MPs, like Mato Franjicevic of the Croatian Democratic Union BiH, said they are willing to consider the proposal. "Without convincing arguments as to why the move is rational and justified, however, I would not support the idea," Franjicevic told SETimes.
Sarajevo engineer Bojan Bakic, 28, told SETimes that delaying the elections may create small savings, but not nearly enough to make a difference in the budget.
"There are thousands of ways they can save, but the politicians simply do not listen to expert opinion," Bakic said.
"The two parties have been spending the taxpayers' money irrationally for years," Tanja Topic, political analyst at the Friedrich Ebert Foundation told SETimes.
Topic argued the initiative is practically impossible to implement; it requires changing the election law and the constitution first.
"If you want to save, they could move the general elections to be held this year, so that all elections will be held this year," Topic said.