April 25th was supposed to be an historic day for Bosnia: for the first time, the country’s constitution, which it had acquired through the Dayton peace agreement, was to be overhauled. (The current constitution was drafted in English, and no one ever bothered to produce an official translation into Bosnian.)
Some, like the editors of Transitions Online, argue believe that the proposed amendments, though “modest to the point of being uninspiring,” are a “positive development” and that “it is hard to come up with any legitimate reason why anyone should be opposed.” But opposition was strong enough for the Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) Party of Democratic Action to propose, in the wee hours of this morning, to adjourn the session (which had lasted from 10am to 1:40am) until later today so they can try to get sufficient support.
What went wrong?
The people who initiated the process of constitutional amendments, based at the U.S. Institute of Peace in Washington, have been criticized for expending valuable political capital on an issue that ultimately just isn’t that serious. Indeed, the Dayton constitution did not create the division of Bosnia — Bosnians did — nor would it necessarily have to be a brake on development, as the creation of several new ministries and the delegation of authority from the entities to the central government have shown in the past. There’s some truth to the accusation, then, but I would still maintain that it was worth trying.
However, should the demagogues, led by Haris Silajdzic, prevail and the amendments be voted down, this would send a very bad signal indeed, not least to the EU which is worried that Bosnia’s cumbersome structures of governance can simply not deal with the demands of EU integration. Silajdzic opposes the amendments because they don’t go far enough and abolish the entity structure (read: Republika Srpska). By voting no, he will ensure that no change, as modest as it may be, will take place for years to come.
Expect the cajoling and bribing to continue through the day. A vote should take place sometime this evening.