2018 Critical and decisive year in electoral terms. Political scene in Bosnia and Herzegovina seems more active and ‘’productive’’, due to the establishment of new political parties, nationalist rhetoric’s awakening strong sentiments and a ruthless political agenda of mutual accusations between the political leaders.
Bosnia and Herzegovina is a small, but yet very bureaucratic country with a burdensome administrative architecture. One country, two entities (Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and Republika Srpska: RS)), three constituent people (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) and approximately 150 political parties registered at the moment. Yet, the complexities of the current framework are not the subject matter of this article, but rather the distinctiveness of 2018 elections due to several interesting factors.
Primarily, it is important to note that the changes to Electoral Law of Bosnia and Herzegovina are still awaited and the risk of postponing the elections in upcoming October is present. Precisely, the election of delegates to the House of People by FBiH cantonal assembly represents an issue. To sum it up, Croats aim to prevent dominant Bosniak voters to elect the Croat representative, whilst Bosniaks resist such amendments to Law due to potential further division of the Federation itself into smaller units. To make it even clearer, the current law prescribes that voters in the FBiH who are mainly either Bosniaks or Croats can elect either Bosniak or Croat representative, thus opening up the possibility for Bosniaks to elect both members due to their majority population. Although the interpretation of the law and the foundations of the electoral system itself are being ethnicized, this fact did not certainly prevent election campaigns for Presidency posts to commence.
Let us see who are the candidates for the tripartite state presidency. The tripartite presidency is another peculiarity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, resulting from the Dayton Peace Accord 1995 as a flawed peace agreement setting fertile ground for country’s stagnation and unprecedented adverse implications. With no specific reason or subjectivity towards any of the candidates, let me introduce first the politician who decided to run again. Željko Komšić, leader of Democratic Front (DF) announced his candidacy for the position of Croat member of the tripartite state presidency. One of the most recently debated attempts by Mr. Komšić is the aim for unification of leftist parties, whose prospects do not seem promising at the moment. The negotiations are ongoing between former party colleagues, Mr. Komšić and Mr. Nermin Nikšić, the president of Social Democratic Party (SDP). Yet, the political party resisting the idea of nominating Mr. Komšić on behalf of leftist parties are the representatives of Naša stranka, a social liberal party and one of the rare multi-ethnic parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Finally, Mr. Komšić will definitely and undoubtedly be one of the candidates for the Presidency, due to his firm stance on the matter. In addition, one of the candidates for Croat member might be Dr. Slavo Kukić, whilst no official announcement was still made by Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and their current Presidency member, Dragan Čović.
Regarding the Bosniak member of the Presidency, or at least candidate by Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the party’s choice appears straightforward although yet unconfirmed: the current Chairman of the Council of Ministers, Denis Zvizdić. Still, according to some public speculations, one of the candidates might even be the wife of the current Bosniak member of the Presidency, Mrs. Sebija Izetbegović. It remains to be seen what will be the outcome of these forecasts. Furthermore, the newly established parties founded by previous SDA members shall not be omitted in this context, such as for instance, Narod i Pravda, by the resigning premier of the Sarajevo Canton.
However, not all figures in this political rivalry are well-known and familiar. For instance, as a ‘’breeze of fresh air’’ is Bosniak – American University professor with extensive professional background, Dr. Mirsad Hadžikadić, who will run for the first time this year as an independent candidate. Conclusively, these elections will be a very solid test for the voters and their trust in the system and the leading political elites, or either their promptness in delivering unforeseen elections outcome and the long-awaited change. The widest choice at this Electoral Buffet seems to be enjoyed by Bosniaks, whose leaders can and should rightly be criticized for lack of unification. The unification of Bosniak leaders seems very unattainable as of now due to divergences within the main Bosniak party, trends of launching new political parties and accompanying scandals – but most significantly – an absence of a strategy for preventing secessionist narratives and sharing the same vision for pro – European Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Last but not least significant, the most likely candidate for the Serbian member of the Presidency is Milorad Dodik, the current president of the smaller Bosnian entity and the politician whose rhetoric’s constantly undermines the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina. In the scenario of Mr. Dodik winning the seat, it will be very interesting to observe his rhetoric’s and to what advanced level will the current nationalist ideologies rise within the Presidency chambers.
This article provides just a glimpse of the overall elections atmosphere and challenging months to follow up by October. The role of international community in the process related to the amendments to the Elections Law is active in terms of promoting dialogues. However, a particular gesture by the official representative of Republic of Croatia represents more than just a dialogue. Interestingly, the regional initiative seemed appalling – the efforts by Croatian President, Kolinda Grabar – Kitarović, to appeal to the President of Turkey, Recep Tayyip Erdogan to support Bosnian Croats in amending Bosnia’s electoral law and protecting their national rights respectively. In terms of public international law at least, this act of interference in another sovereign country’s election processes and ongoing negotiations does not seem comforting or supportive as it might have been intended. These and similar acts of apparent mediation may incite further tensions in the country and foster dangerous and meaningless discussions of partition of a sovereign and independent country. In the heart of Europe, in the 21st century, with historical facts and the manipulation attempts of same being easily accessible to all of us.
Lastly, it is reasonable to inquire where do we stand at the moment? Electoral standoff, international community’s initiatives, emerging political parties with highly enthusiastic agendas, and the sea of familiar paradox stirred with nationalist narratives. However, on a optimistic note, the decision still lies with the voters. The voters shall be informed and bear in mind the significance of their vote as one of the essential civic duties. Observing the actions, rather than beautified speeches will guide them to the candidate worth of their vote.
Master of Laws
Honorary Member of TUIC