BiH general elections bring about political change but how about an imminent crisis?

BiH general elections bring about political change but how about an imminent crisis?

Numerous election hopes remained buried under piles of ballots after the Central Election Commission BiH (CEC BiH) announced the victory of the candidates who were ‘competing’ for the new members’ posts at the Presidency of the country, for members of the state, entities and cantonal parliaments.

Although vote counting is still ongoing, CEC BiH confirmed that Milorad Dodik (Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats SNSD – Serb), Šefik Džaferović (Party of the Democratic Action SDA – Bosniak) and Željko Komšić (Democratic Front DF – Croat) are the new members of the tripartite state presidency. In addition, it seems that the SNSD candidate for Republika Srpska’s president, Željka Cvijanović, will win the race against the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) candidate, Vukota Govedarica. In practice, it means that, after a four-year pause, SNSD will hold the most important positions for Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina again. Furthermore, preliminary results confirmed the absolute SNSD domination in the Serbian electoral body in Republic of Srpska (RS).

What is of great interest is that the BiH Presidency’s mandate will be carried out by three new members. Two of the old members who were candidates for the next term in this institution, namely Mladen Ivanić (Party of Democratic Progress PDP – Serb) and Dragan Čović (Croatian Democratic Union HDZ – Croat) have lost the election “competition” by Dodik and Komšić. At the same time, Bakir Izetbegović (SDA) was not in a position to run for the same post as he had served it already twice (in back-to-back victories).

So, who are the new Presidency members?

Milorad Dodik

The greatest fear of Western diplomats, as it seems, was that Dodik would be elected in the BiH Presidency. The reason is that they consider him as “Russia’s man” in the Balkans and the main human ‘obstacle’ for the country’s progress towards NATO and the EU.

In his first public appearance after the announcement of the preliminary results, that confirmed he would be one of the three BiH Presidency members, Dodik said that he would (finally) bring the Republika Srpska flag to the Presidency building in Sarajevo. On top of that, he said he would send U.S. president Donald Trump a message, in order to get his consent regarding the revocation of the Office of the High Representative (OHR) with the aim to abolish it. Dodik added that he will use the RS office in the city of East Sarajevo as his main office during his mandate and and would not serve the term from BiH’s capital.

But, let us simply face the truth and try come to terms with it: Dodik is the (Serb) nationalist involved in separatist activities, who often threats (by using division-based ideas) other nations in the country. His dream of an “Independent Republika Srpska” has never left him and, if he sees fit, Dodik will surely organise a referendum concerning the entity’s independence. However, if we want to be accurate and use a compass based on pragmatism, the only position higher than that of a BiH Presidency members is the one of “The President of the Independent Republika Srpska” -non existent at the moment, for the record.

Šefik Džaferović

His candidacy was the product of the very clever political game by SDA’s head, Bakir Izetbegović and his wife’s Sebija. Once and since Izetbegović knew he could not run for another term, and Sebija had not been well accepted by party members as she had not been considered a good candidate, everybody expected that the next candidate would be Denis Zvizdić, present Chairman of the BiH Council of Ministers. However, Zvizdić was not as close to the Izetbegović family as Džaferović, making that looking like… a defect. Bakir and Sebija could thus play smartly, something they actually did, helping Džaferović to get elected as the new party candidate who would stand for the Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency.

Džaferović can be undoubtedly described as a “soldier of the party”. To Serbs he is responsible for numerous atrocities and war crimes against them during the 1992-1995 war. The war crimes were committed by the mujahedeens -soldiers from Muslim countries who came to BiH to “help Muslim brothers with their jihad” (“holy war”). Džaferović, as Serbs have claimed, knew about the killings, the rituals of decapitations and torture methods used against Serb prisoners, but never tried to stop them.

The question is – how (well) will he co-operate with Dodik, the Serb nationalist, in this (always until now – that is after the Dayton Agreement to date) top tripartite institution?

Željko Komšić

In fact, same will be the issue in Komšić’s case too since he and Dodik make the pieces of a jigsaw puzzle. Komšić is a Croat, but, during the war he had been a member of the, mostly Bosniak, Army of the Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Moreover, due to his bravery he has been awarded with the highest war medal – the Golden Lily medal.

The latter is the main reason that Croats in BiH are being supportive of his political engagement. Ahead of the current polls, he had been elected -as the HDZ had said- thanks to Federation BiH Bosniaks’ votes.

Beforehand, a certain group of Croat politicians was trying to push for particular Election Law changes in order to prevent such an occasion; that is having Bosniaks electing a Croat member to the Presidency. According to the actual law, the voters of all cantons in Federation BiH are eligible to vote for both the Bosniak and the Croat members. The changes aimed at voters in cantons with a Croat majority (mostly in Herzegovina) only to have to elect their own representative in this institution, but since they did not make it through the parliamentary procedure, Komšić found open doors to the Presidency.

It is worth reminding that Komšić is pretty familiar with the Presidency’s whereabouts since he has served it also in the past.

At present, at his first public statement after Sunday’s general election was about the disputed case of the Pelješac Bridge (controversial bridge in Dalmatia. The way it is being constructed -its building was halted in 2008 due to the global financial meltdown and re-commenced at the end of July 2018 with the goal to be completed by 2022- finds Bosnia opposing it, as they believe it assaults its sovereignty and territorial integrity) Komšić said that BiH has every right to sue Croatia over it.

Additionally, further tension could be caused between Dodik and Komšić because the latter’s opponent at the elections, Dragan Čović, is a close friend of Dodik’s.

At the press conference on Monday, PDP leaders announced that “something is wrong” with the results, adding that they will demand a re-count of votes. This will cause a lengthier process than expected so, the public and BiH will meet their new “troika” later that initially planned.

According to some political analysts, it is possible that the state will enter a fresh constitutional crisis, but, if we want to be just, people knew that ahead, could see it coming or, at the very list, were in a position to predict so earlier…. / IBNA