Bosnia’s constitutional court temporarily halts Republika Srpska referendum

By bne IntelliNews September 18, 2016

The constitutional court of Bosnia & Herzegovina ruled on September 17 against a request from Republika Srpska’s parliament to review its earlier decision declaring the celebration of Republic Day unconstitutional. The court and temporarily suspended the planned a referendum in the country’s smaller entity. 

A referendum on whether to make January 9 a public holiday in Republika Srpska is due to take place on September 25, seriously raising tensions within Bosnia due to the day’s connection to the entity’s secessionist ambitions. Republika Srpska’s top politicians stated that they would not respect the court’s decision and will continue preparations on the referendum.

The court’s decision further raised tensions in Bosnia and provoked many conflicting reactions.

In a joint statement, EU High Representative Federica Mogherini and European Commissioner Johannes Hahn said that Bosnia should respect the court’s decision and act accordingly.

“We encourage the institutions of BiH to resolve this issue and to respect the rule of law through the established legal processes and the existing constitutional framework, and through constructive dialogue. All parties need to abstain from acts which could escalate the situation,” the statement reads.

High Representative Valentin Inzko also called on all parties to respect the constitutional court’s decision, pointing out that the authority of the court is clearly defined in Annex 4 of the Dayton Peace Agreement that ended the 1992-1995 Bosnian war.

“The High Representative calls upon the authorities in the RS to refrain from holding a referendum that has no legal basis and would directly violate the decision of the Court. This is not about RS holidays any longer but about directly challenging the State level judiciary,” the Office of the High Representative said in a statement.

It added that challenging the constitutional court’s authority by holding the referendum would constitute a direct and serious violation of the Dayton peace agreement, which will affect the stability of the country.

However, Republika Srpska’s President Milorad Dodik claimed that the referendum would not harm anybody’s interests and is not a provocation.

Dodik told media that the entity will not give up holding the referendum and called on Republika Srpska’s citizens to vote on September 25. Dodik claimed that the constitutional court cannot suspend the parliament’s decision.

“I did not even expect different behaviour from the political body that calls itself a Constitutional Court. With the constant wrong political decisions harming the Serb people, nothing is surprising,” daily Nezavisne Novine quoted Dodik as saying.

Another politician – Mladen Bosic, deputy chairman of the Serb Democratic Party – said that the decision of the constitutional court was “dangerous” and would not contribute to the lowering of tensions.

On September 22, three days ahead of the referendum, Dodik will visit Russia to meet President Vladimir Putin. Although Republika Srpska’s President has said that the visit has been planned for a long time, many analysts say it is related to the referendum. Russia did not support the Peace Implementation Council’s (PIC) August 30 declaration against the referendum.

The statement issued by ambassadors of other PIC countries says that according to the Bosnian Constitutional Act, decisions of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia are final and mandatory and entities are obliged to respect decisions of the Bosnian institutions.

January 9 is the anniversary of the proclamation of the Republic of the Serb People of Bosnia & Herzegovina in 1992, shortly before the outbreak of the Bosnian civil war. At the time Bosnian Serbs claimed their republic was part of Yugoslavia – rather than Bosnia, which had declared its independence the year before.

However, January 9 is also an also an Orthodox religious holiday, the Day of St Stephen, which is not observed by Catholic Croats or Muslim Bosniaks. Last year, Bosnia’s constitutional court decided that the celebration of Republic Day in the entity contains elements of discrimination and should not be held until it meets the criteria of international legislation for human rights.

Earlier in September, Dodik said that the entity would change its law on public holidays so that it meets constitutional requirements. The President said that the law would allow those who do not wish to celebrate a certain holiday not to celebrate it. According to Dodik, this change would make the celebration of January 9 constitutional.

Related Articles

Non-performing loans in Central and Southeast Europe fell 6.5% y/y in 2015

Levels of non-performing loans (NPLs) in Central and Southeast Europe (CE/SEE) continued to decline in 2015 but still remain worryingly high, ... more

Bosnian securities registry reveals buyer of Bosnalijek stake

Malta-registered financial services provider KBC Euro Credit Capital was the buyer of a 19.25% state-owned stake in Bosnian blue-chip drug producer Bosnalijek at an extraordinary auction on ... more

Bosnia’s Sarajevo bourse launches Islamic index

One of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s two bourses, the Sarajevo Stock Exchange (SASE), said on October 10 it has launched an Islamic stock index jointly with Bosna Bank International (BBI), which ... more

Register here to continue reading this article and 2 more for free or 12 months full access inc. Magazine and Weekly Newspaper for just $119/year.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. A confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

Thank you for purchasing a bne IntelliNews subscription. We look forward to serving you as one of our paid subscribers. An email confirmation will be sent to the email address you have provided.

To continue viewing our content you need to complete the registration process.

Please look for an email that was sent to with the subject line "Confirmation bne IntelliNews access". This email will have instructions on how to complete registration process. Please check in your "Junk" folder in case this communication was misdirected in your email system.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and magazine

Subscribe to bne IntelliNews website and monthly magazine, the leading source of business, economic and financial news and commentary in emerging markets.

Your subscription includes:
  • Full access to the bne content daily news and features on the website
  • Newsletters direct to your mailbox
  • Print and digital subscription to the monthly bne magazine
  • Digital subscription to the weekly bne newspaper

IntelliNews Pro subscribers click here

bne IntelliNews
$119 per year

All prices are in US dollars net of applicable taxes.

If you have any questions please contact us at

Register for free to read bne IntelliNews Magazine. You'll receive a free digital subscription.

If you have already registered, enter the information below with the same email you used previously and you will be granted immediate access.

Thank you. Please complete your registration by confirming your email address. The confirmation email has been sent to the email address you provided.

IntelliNews Pro offers daily news updates delivered to your inbox and in-depth data reports.
Get the emerging markets newswire that financial professionals trust.

"No day starts for my team without IntelliNews Pro" — UBS

Thank-you for requesting an IntelliNews Pro trial. Our team will be in contact with you shortly.