Serbia Urges Autumn Vote For Bosniak Council


As Minorities Minister recommends re-run elections for Bosniak National Council before winter, the Bosniak Cultural Community, BKZ, led by Muamer Zukorlic, gives cool response

By Bojana Barlovac

Serbia’s new Minister for Human and Minority Rights says fresh elections for the Bosniak National Council, representing the country’s Muslim community, should take place by the end of 2011.

“This is in the state’s interest and is needed by the Bosniak people; it’s realistic to do this before the start of a severe winter in this region,” Milan Markovic said on Friday.

The first election to the Bosniak National Council took place last June but the outcome has become mired in controversy and lawsuits.

Under a law adopted in 2009, Serbia set up national councils for all its ethnic minorities, with a view to giving them more control over their own affairs. The councils were endowed with a number of competences in the fields of education, culture and the media.

But the formation of a council for the Bosniak community, which is concentrated in the southwest Sandzak region, around the town of Novi Pazar, has proved highly contentious.

The party that won most votes in the June 2010 election, the Bosniak Cultural Community, BKZ, led by a radical mufti, Muamer Zukorlic, is at loggerheads with Belgrade after the government disputed Zukorlic’s victory and insisted on a new round of voting.

Since then, a Zukorlic-run National Council has operated in defiance of Belgrade.

After a government reshuffle in March, a new minorities minister was chosen and relations between Belgrade and the Sandzak region improved.

Minister Markovic has sicne canceled a re-election vote scheduled for April 17. Markovic has now voiced hopes of persuading Zukorlic and the representatives of other elections lists to participate in a new vote, later on.

The ministry is currently holding talks with all three main Bosniak parties in the Serbian region.

Samir Tandir, a member of Zukorlic’s Bosniak Cultural Community, said the minister’s change of tone was welcome but he needed to bolster nice words with concrete acts.

He said his party was not persuaded of the need for a new vote. “We suggest that the existing council remains, and members of the other two Bosniak parties join it,” Tandir told Balkan Insight.

Zukorlic’s party has filed lawsuits against the former minorities minister, Svetozar Ciplic, for abuse of abuse and for changing the procedural rules on forming the Bosniak council only night before it was due to be formed.

If all the lawsuits were completed by the winter, Tandir said, his party might just consider joining a new election.

Balkan Insight

The Balkan Insight (formerly the Balkin Investigative Reporting Network, BIRN) is a close group of editors and trainers that enables journalists in the region to produce in-depth analytical and investigative journalism on complex political, economic and social themes. BIRN emerged from the Balkan programme of the Institute for War & Peace Reporting, IWPR, in 2005. The original IWPR Balkans team was mandated to localise that programme and make it sustainable, in light of changing realities in the region and the maturity of the IWPR intervention. Since then, its work in publishing, media training and public debate activities has become synonymous with quality, reliability and impartiality. A fully-independent and local network, it is now developing as an efficient and self-sustainable regional institution to enhance the capacity for journalism that pushes for public debate on European-oriented political and economic reform.

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