Low turnout, an average number of incidents and surprises in some larger cities is perhaps the best summary of Sunday’s local elections, which took place throughout BiH, except in Mostar, where they will be held later.
Unlike all the previous post-war elections at the local level, as far as mayors and mayors are concerned, these were different because in a number of larger municipalities there were more candidates of uniform quality on the ballots. The biggest surprises are, without a doubt, the elections in Banja Luka and Sarajevo, where the ruling parties failed after many years when it comes to mayors. In both cases voters were fed up with “party soldiers” who do not listen to the citizens but to the party and turn into mere executors of the party’s will. Many years of party employment, nepotism and corruption have their price, which this time was charged at the local level.
Specifically, in Banja Luka, the opposition candidate, unfinished student of economics, Draško Stanivuković, and the “party soldier” of the ruling coalition led by the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and the mayor in the previous term, Igor Radojičić, entered the battle for the position of mayor. Stanivuković is 27 years old and has no work experience except in politics. He comes from one of the richest families in BiH and, during the campaign, he promised so much that his four-year term will be short. On the other hand, Radojičić is an experienced politician who performed important functions at the level of Republika Srpska. As mayor, he had the freedom to build a dozen roundabouts and a couple of bridges in the city. He did everything else on the order of the party, which in the end cost him his mandate.
When citizens, two years ago, protested because of the murder of David Dragičević, a young man whose body was found in the river and the family suspects that the highest police officials were involved in the case, Radojičić was mostly wisely silent and reiterated in rare statements that “institutions should do their job”. However, the erection of any landmark at the place where the young man’s body was found was forbidden, and the Communal Police – the executive body of the City Administration, demolished what the citizens erected. Interestingly enough, Stanivuković celebrated his victory on the main city square, where he was arrested during a demonstration two years ago.
Another important reason for Radojičić’s defeat is the SNSD’s attitude towards coalition partners, from whom much was demanded and little was given back in return. That is the reason why there was a split in the coalition parties, and their members most likely did not even go to the polls. Turnout in Banja Luka was slightly above 50%, of which 54% voted for Stanivuković and 46% for Radojičić. A simple calculation says that the new mayor was elected by a little more than a quarter of the voters, so it cannot be said that the majority voted for him. After all, the SNSD is leading in the election race for the City Assembly, so the new mayor will not have councillors who support him.
As for Sarajevo, things are much clearer – long-standing scandals, partisan employment and the inaction of municipal administrations led the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) to a defeat, at a time when they expected the electorate to abide by the standard vote for this party. An obvious example of unprofessional behaviour is the fact that the wife of party leader Bakir Izetbegović, Sebija, suddenly became the director of the largest medical institution in BiH – the University Clinical Centre in Sarajevo. In addition, her influence at the Faculty of Medicine is known, as well as the intention to expand the influence to the level of the University. Other party candidates behaved similarly, so the SDA should use the defeat for consolidation and reorganization to return to the game in four years.
The local elections were also marked by several curiosities. For example, Fikret Abdić, a convicted war criminal who was arrested a few months ago on suspicion of corruption and abuse of office, was re-elected mayor of Velika Kladuša.
Interestingly enough, a dozen candidates did not get a single vote, which means that they did not vote for themselves, while several candidates were sure of winning even before the election because they had no opponents.
The most morbid case happened in city of Travnik, where one of the candidates died of coronavirus on election day, but that did not stop him from winning the election. The Central Election Commission has not yet decided on the issue because thlaw does not provide for such cases./ibna