Bosnian Serb authorities will be denied access to the central voter register which is necessary for their plan to hold the referendum set for September 25, the Central Election Commission (SIP) of Bosnia and Herzegovina said on Thursday.
"With a majority of votes we decided to refuse, as unfounded and impermissible, the request by the Serb entity referendum commission to be granted access to the voter register," SIP chair Ahmet Santic told reporters in Sarajevo.
The decision was made by a narrow majority of votes and was supported by four of seven SIP members based on an assessment that the ad hoc commission for the referendum in the Serb entity was not authorised to manage the voter register.
Branko Petric, a Serb member of SIP, expressed dissatisfaction with the decision.
"The decision was made by outvoting, which is becoming common practice in SIP and that's not good," said Petric.
SIP's decision can be appealed against before the Appeals Chamber of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, whose ruling is final and binding.
The Serb entity government's plan to hold a referendum in which voters would decide if they want January 9 to continue to be commemorated as Republika Srpska Day, contrary to a ruling by the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina which has declared the holiday as unconstitutional, has caused a deep political crisis in the country.
Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik threatened on Wednesday that the referendum, which challenges the jurisdiction of the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina, would definitely be held on September 25 regardless of negative reactions and calls by the international community to scrap it.
He said that the entity government would compile the voter register on its own if SIP decided not to provide it.
SIP today also announced the beginning of a month-long election campaign for local elections, to be held in Bosnia and Herzegovina on October 2.
Santic called on all registered parties and candidates to conduct fair campaigns and avoid language fomenting tension or hate.
A total of 103 political parties, 106 coalitions and 171 independent candidates are running in elections for municipal councils, municipal heads and mayors.