Intl overseer changes voting rules in Bosnia

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Election Commission officials count votes after general election in Sarajevo, Bosnia, Sunday, Oct. 2, 2022. Polls opened Sunday in Bosnia for a general election that is unlikely to bring any structural change despite palpable disappointment in the small, ethnically divided Balkan country with the long-established cast of sectarian political leaders. (AP Photo/Armin Durgut)

SARAJEVO – Shortly after polls closed in Bosnia’s general election on Sunday, the top international overseer of a 1995 peace agreement that ended the country’s inter-ethnic war in the 1990s announced that he was changing its electoral law.

Christian Schmidt, who holds the post of the international high representative in Bosnia, announced in a YouTube video that he was amending the law “to ensure functionality and timely implementation of election results,” assuring citizens that the changes “will in no way affect” the votes cast on Sunday.

“It is crucial for destiny of this country that there will be no blockades,” he said.

The changes will affect the size of the parliament of one of the country’s two highly independent administrative parts, shared between ethnic Croats and Bosniaks, and prevent blockades of the formation of its government.

Bosnians on Sunday elected representatives for different levels of government that are part of one of the world’s most complicated institutional set-ups. That structure was agreed upon in a U.S.-sponsored peace deal that ended the brutal 1992-95 war between the country's three main ethnic groups: Muslim Bosniaks, Orthodox Serbs and Catholic Croats.

The U.S.-brokered Dayton Agreement divided the country into two highly independent governing entities — one run by Serbs and the other shared by Bosniaks and Croats. The two have broad autonomy but are linked by shared national institutions. All countrywide actions require consensus from all three ethnic groups.

The agreement also gave broad powers to the high representative, including the ability to impose laws and to dismiss officials and civil servants who undermine the country’s fragile post-war ethnic balance.