June 13, 2018 / 4:08 PM / 3 months ago

Croatian conservatives seek a vote on curbing minority rights

ZAGREB (Reuters) - Croatian conservatives campaigning for a change in election laws submitted enough signatures to parliament to call a referendum on reducing the legislative rights of ethnic minority groups, conservative group said on Wednesday.

The group said the proposal called for reducing the number of lawmakers in parliament from 150 to a maximum 120. It also would reduce the number of MPs representing minorities and ban them from voting on crucial issues, such as government formation and budget.

A vote may be held in September or October, the group said.

“We now have a situation that ... minorities can decide on whether the government will fall or survive ... which is why we believe they should only deal with issues relating to religion, culture or identity,” HINA news agency quoted Dominik Knezovic, a representative the People Decides group, as saying.

Knezovic argued the initiative was in line with the constitution, and that many members of minority groups voted for general lists instead of the lists of their own groups.

About 329,000 Croatians belong to ethnic minorities, out of a population of 4.3 million. Ethnic Serbs are the largest group, accounting for 4 percent, according to the latest census. Protecting minority rights was one of the conditions for the country’s joining the European Union in 2013.

Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had earlier dismissed the initiative, saying that any such vote would be unconstitutional. The Independent Democratic Serb Party is a junior coalition partner in Plenkovic’s center-right government.

Reporting by Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo, editing by Larry King

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