West, Bosnia in row over Presidency succession law

SARAJEVO, Aug 2, 2000 -- (Reuters) The international representative running Bosnia on Tuesday condemned its parliament for adopting a law on presidential succession which could be unconstitutional.

Last month the Moslem presidency chairman Alija Izetbegovic said he would leave office in October due to ill health and misunderstandings with the international community.

The lower house of Bosnia's state parliament last week passed a law submitted by Bosnia's joint presidency on how to fill a presidential vacancy, and the upper house approved it on Monday.

The proposed law came despite a ruling on succession last week by the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), which said a successor should be nominated from amongst members of the parliament due to be elected in November.

A spokesman for the office of the international Bosnia High Representative (OHR) Wolfgang Petritsch said the proposed law, which would allow a successor to be chosen from the current upper house of parliament, was suspected to be against the constitution.

He said it could be put on hold until the OHR had issued a legal opinion.

"The OHR and the OSCE believe the presidency's proposed law is manipulative and undemocratic," spokesman Chris Bird said at a news conference.

Bird said that under the law someone who had not been directly elected to parliament could be appointed to the presidency, which is unconstitutional.

The Western critics say the proposed law would give all control of the succession process to the parliament's upper house, which comprises deputies from the three ruling Moslem, Croat and Serb nationalist parties, SDA, HDZ and SDS.

"It once again demonstrates that SDA, SDS and HDZ have no trouble agreeing on moves to retain themselves in power," said OSCE spokeswoman Sanela Tunovic.

A Moslem, Croat and Serb member of Bosnia's collective presidency were elected in 1998 for a four-year mandate. The current legal framework does not provide for the replacement of a presidency member.

The OHR said the OSCE ruling would remain in force until legal experts decided whether the adopted law contravenes the constitution.

It remains unclear whether Petritsch would use his sweeping powers to annul the law if legal opinion confirms it is unconstitutional.

Post-war Bosnia also comprises the Serb republic.

Original article