BiH in 2018: Another year of great expectations

BiH in 2018: Another year of great expectations

The end of “anno domini 2017” in BiH means that a series of actions were triggered but none of them ended as it planned. For most politicians and (ordinary) citizens, the year 2018 marks yet another year of great expectations.

In fact, for some it could turn into the year of great disappointments, while for others into one of great victories. The interesting and unique thing about 2018 is that there is no medium between the two ends. Sadly, the first disappointment for Bosnians is already a fact; the Croatian member and BiH Presidency Chairman, Dragan Čović said in a recent interview of his, that most likely, BiH will not get the status of candidate for the European Union membership. Admittedly, this positions the country at the stark fault line of countries in the region which seem to be en route to the Euro-Atlantic integration.

Internationally wise, Bosnia is on the same page as other neighbouring states, having in mind that the U.S. Administration has announced the revision of the Russian influence in the region. The “big comeback” of the U.S. is expected in the first half of the year, since several officials, the U.S. Deputy Assistant Secretary for European and Eurasian Affairs, Hoyt Brian Yee among them, are paving the way for the arrival of the analysts. Hoyt Yee has reiterated that “those who advocate the dissolution of BiH should be removed from the political scene”, pointing at the RS President, Milorad Dodik. The latter’s stance and the American objections are expected to remain the same, next year, too, since Dodik is described as “Russia’s man”.

Next year the state will face the challenge of another election, this time for parliaments in entities, cantons and at a state level. The winner is uncertain since a lot of changes are expected in the coming months. These changes were apparent already in 2017 and are believed to influence elections to a great extent. In Federation BiH, the pre-mentioned changes led to break-up of the ruling coalition. Three parties, the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) led by Bakir Izetbegovic, the Alliance for a Better Future in BiH (SBB BiH) headed by Fahrudin Radoncic and the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) with Dragan Covic as its leader did not manage to find the happy medium so as to work together, so, Radoncic openly said that his party is not in the governmental scheme anymore. The entity Parliament is working under very difficult conditions with a lot of disputes, even about minor issues.

The problem at the Federation BiH level reflected also at a state level -first and foremost at the BiH Presidency. The fact is that the leaders of SDA and HDZ, Izetbegovic and Covic, are members of the tripartite highest state institution. Mladen Ivanic who represents the Serbs in the Presidency said lately in an interview that the atmosphere during the sessions is very bad and that the dispute between the other two members is visible. Daily jobs are done, but nothing else is OK.

State Parliament is also under major pressure. The ruling coalition does not exist, the majority suffers losses and the parties from Republic of Srpska, which were in the ruling coalition, are not even thinking to be involved in the battle between parties from Federation BiH. RS parties, the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) and Peoples’ Democratic Movement (NDP), that belong to the opposition at RS level and the situation that caused the dispute with the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and its partners, which is governing in the RS but hols a post with the opposition, at state level. The dispute is so bitter that there is no communication between the RS Government and the RS representatives at joint BiH institutions -first of all, at the Council of Ministers BiH. In this framework, next year will be the bearer of hope -believing that things will improve. 

Complicated? Not even close as next year will be on RS political scene. Next year will bring a major high-level change  -Milorad Dodik will not be a candidate for the RS presidency. After eight years in office, he does not have the right to be re-elected. Rumours want him to be the candidate Serb member for the BiH Presidency but there has been no confirmation yet. He said he will run for one of the highest offices.

In 2018, Republic of Srpska will present a large gap between ruling parties and opposition, but each of these coalitions already has problems with each other. The most visible change in the RS political scene is the growing disagreement between Dodik’s SNSD and the Democratic Peoples Alliance (DNS), led by Marko Pavic. DNS is the party which attracted a lot of new members in 2017 and strengthened its position politically. The second party whose members have become more is the new United Srpska (US), with Nenad Stevandic holding the reins. Now things become tricky -Pavic and Stevandic are not on good terms and will make an effort in the coming months, to find their place. Pavic as far as demanding greater distance between SNSD, as coalition leader, and US or DNS will abandon the coalition. But, he probably did not pay attention to analysts who said that he is now too strong for the coalition -something that since Dodik does not like at all as he prefers working with weaker leaders.

This situation would be fine for the opposition but as things develop it will not because the coalition will transfer the problems to the next year. The first challenge for them in 2018 will be the selection of candidates for a highest entity and state positions. Many have said that the opposition candidate for the RS Presidency will be Mladen Ivanic. However, nothing is solid yet as, the SDS leader, Vukota Govedarica will not support that decision.

Everything must be crystal clear until Spring, when the Central Election Commision will announce the general elections date. Then, citizens will have the chance to decide between one, two or, in some cases, three options. As a matter of fact, things will change but it remains to be seen whether the country will way out from the dead end it has come to…/IBNA