Citizens' plenums become voice of democracy in BiH

05/03/2014

Tired of the poorly functioning political system in the country, citizens in BiH have taken a role in solving the crisis.

By Bedrana Kaletovic for Southeast European Times in Tuzla -- 05/03/14

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Citizens attend a plenary meeting in Tuzla. [Bedrana Kaletovic/SETimes]

Sparked by the on-going protests, citizens in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) are using plenums in Tuzla, Sarajevo, Mostar and Zenica to have a direct voice in the solution to the current situation in the country.

Plenums are a non-political gathering of citizens, open to all those who want to participate.

"A plenum is the place for careful consideration and reflection, but also the place to find the right decisions for the greater interest for all citizens. It is the place where we can freely express our thinking, deliver our requests and propose solutions to the problems, which was almost impossible before the protests," Nina Zupan, a member of the Tuzla Citizens' Plenum, told SETimes.

According to Valentin Inzko, high representative in BiH, leaders have moral and political responsibility to listen to the voice of citizens, "to provide constructive solutions through dialogue. The citizens of BiH have basic democratic rights to peaceful demonstrations, and it is essential that relevant authorities support these rights."

The plenums have also been praised by the EU.

"Europe has heard the voice of citizens, which is very encouraging because it means that the voice of the citizens of BiH is taken seriously," said EU enlargement commissioner Stefan Fule.

Kasim Trnka, a professor of constitutional law at the Law Faculty in Sarajevo, said the level of democracy in a society is evaluated through the active engagement of its citizens in the civil sector, which represent a corrective factor for the government. It is therefore important to take seriously the decisions brought by the citizen plenums as they represent the spontaneous way of expressing the free will of the citizens, Trnka said.

"Plenums do not have legitimacy to form the government, but they could propose candidates for the government," Trnka told SETimes.

The Tuzla plenum's first success was the abolishment of, the "white bread" policy, which allowed politicians to draw salaries up to one year after their mandates ended. That the government voted unanimously in favour of the citizens' request was a great success for the plenum. The savings for the local government will be more than 500,000 euros annually.

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"We have invited all citizens to help us," Emina Busuladzic, a plenum activist from Tuzla, told SETimes. "We have a lot of questions, and we receive answers from different experts: lawyers, university professors and other educated citizens. There are no quick solutions for the problems, and we want that everything is done in legal way."

"Tuzla has succeeded, and so will Sarajevo. People want changes, and citizens have enough strength to make it real," Mensur Duric, an activist in the Sarajevo plenum, told SETimes.

"The plenums must take a firm position in negotiations with the politicians because they represent the political parties that actually caused the problems and the revolt of the disempowered citizens. It is logical that they will oppose the requests of the citizens, articulated through the plenum, but citizens do not have be afraid and to give up. In the end, dialogue must bring results," said Petar Galic, an activist of the plenum from Mostar.

What role will plenums play in developing a lasting solution for BiH? Join the conversation by making a comment below.

This content was commissioned for SETimes.com.
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