Bosnia-Herzegovina’s ethnically divided southern city of Mostar plans to hold its first local elections in 12 years on December 20, the election authority has announced.
Election commission chief Zeljko Balakar said on July 23 that 35 city councilors would be elected under the city’s new election rules. Those city councilors would then vote to determine Mostar’s next mayor.
Local elections are due to be held on November 15 across the rest of the country, provided the national parliament in Sarajevo passes a 2020 budget that funds the vote.
The date for a long-delayed vote in Mostar comes after Bosnia-Herzegovina’s main Bosniak and Croat parties on June 17 reached a last -minute agreement on a new statute for the city.
The deal was signed by Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic, the leaders of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), following lengthy negotiations on the issue.
Mostar has not held municipal polls since 2008 because of the authorities’ failure to enforce a 2010 ruling by Bosnia’s Constitutional Court that said the city’s power-sharing structure was unconstitutional and needed reform.
Ljubo Beslic, of the HDZ, has served as mayor of Mostar without a mandate since his term expired in 2013.
Last October, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Bosnia for its failure to change its election law and enable municipal elections in Mostar.
Mostar has a population of more than 100,000. It is divided by mostly Catholic Bosnian Croats in its west and mainly Muslim Bosniaks in its east.
Bosnia’s Croats and Bosniaks were allied against ethnic Serbs during much of the 1992-95 Bosnian war. But the two communities also fought fierce battles over Mostar and other areas.
The city has reflected the tense situation throughout the country after the Dayton peace accords of 1995, which left Bosnia divided into two autonomous regions — the Bosniak-Croat Federation and the mainly ethnic Serb Republika Srpska — united under a weak central government in Sarajevo.
With reporting by RFE/RL’s Balkan Service and Reuters