“Who is who” in the BiH General Elections 2018 

“Who is who” in the BiH General Elections 2018 

More than 70 parties and 39 independent candidates will take a part in the run for positions in the next parliament that will be judged at the General Election in Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for October 7.

The public could not but be particularly interested in the two most attractive, top positions – the BiH Presidency (with three members, a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb) and the Republika Srpska president. Patiently, as if in a game of chess, voters were waiting to see who will be part of the pre-election period leading up to the polls. Apparently, the greatest surprise of all was that there are no surprises. Every average voter was able to guess the main parties’ candidates months before they were announced. There only a few “mysteries” about a few parties, but the results are more than predictable.

Bosniak member of BiH Presidency

As usual, the biggest number of candidates will run for the position of the Bosniak member of the BiH presidency. This is perhaps normal considering the fact that about half of voters are Bosniaks. Also, it shows that this electoral body is deeply divided between many parties.

Šefik Džaferović (Party of Democratic Action – SDA)

The Džaferović candidacy last weekend ended a month-long game between party president Bakir Izetbegović and his party ilk, and those who want to see him off that position. The game began a few months ago when Izetbegović announced that his spouse, Sebija Izetbegović, might run for the presidency. The response from the party branches in municipalities was different – some positive but the majority of them were negative since it would mean the establishment of the “Izetbegović dynasty” in this institution. Bakir’s father, Alija, was the first BiH Presidency Chairman and member of Presidency for several years after the war. Later on, Bakir took his place, and then he suggested that Sebija could step in, since after two mandates as president, he has no right to be a candidate again. His opponents wanted to see present the BiH Council of Minister Chairman, Denis Zvizdić being a candidate, but he said that he does not want to be in the same position as Sebija. In fact, Zvizdić announced that he would not run at the party elections for the Presidency if Sebija would be his opponent.

Indeed, Sebija was one of the four candidates on the party list and Zvizdić did what he said – he withdrew. However, Sebija Izetbegović played her cards smartly as, she too, withdrew her candidacy a bit later. That opened the door to Šefik Džaferović, an Izetbegović family close friend, to be selected as SDA candidate for the Bosniak member of the BiH Presidency. The candidacy was surrounded by rumours that Sebija created the plot in order to “free the way” for Džaferović since Bakir could not do it.

A few years ago, he was unofficially accused that during the war he had protected members of the Mujahideen battalion in the Republika BiH’s Army, who committed war crimes against Serbs. No official investigation was ever conducted.

Denis Bećirović (Social Democrats Party BiH – SDP BiH)

Being different from the SDA, the Social Democrats selected their candidate in unison. For over 20 years, Denis Bećirović has been the “young and promising” politician. As an MP in the BiH Parliament, he submitted so many initiatives for laws on various issues that the Parliament Secretariat could open a special office dedicated to them only. Still, most of them never got through; actually they were never even debated during the official sessions. His party, the SDP, used to have representatives in the BiH Presidency but due to the drop in the number of members -especially after Željko Komšić left the party and formed his own, the Democratic Front- the popularity of party rapidly decreased.

His election victory is questionable but his role can be more important during the election process. It means that he can attract voters who lost their faith in SDA due to deep division between two (or more) streams in it.

Fahrudin Radončić (Party for Better Future BiH – SBB BiH)

Media mogul, Fahrudin Radončić, (real) owner of Dnevni Avaz newspaper, TV Alfa, a hotel and the highest building in the region, has not officially announced his candidacy but things point to that direction. He has a relatively good name and the chance to gain a significant number of votes. Possibly, the SDA will try to discredit him as a man who has made his fortune in illegal ways.

Radončić was the BiH Security Minister and, although he tried to breathe fresh air into BiH’s political arena during his mandate, other parties ruined all his attempts.

Several other candidates from smaller parties will also run for the Presidency but they have small or minimal chances to be elected. They will gather a small number of votes without significant influence onto the final result.

Croatian member of BiH Presidency

The position of the Croat member of the BiH Presidency triggered a lot of discussion and the decision of the country’s Constitutional Court about changes in the Election Law. The problem is that Bosniak voters elect the Croat member, too although this member should be elected exclusively in the cantons with a Croat majority. But the way things are right now, Croat candidates in the cantons with a Bosniak majority would be prevented from electing or being elected – as the basic human right.

Dragan Čović (Croatian Democratic Union BiH – HDZ BiH)

The HDZ BiH president, Dragan Čović, like Radončić, has not yet confirmed his nomination but it is likely that he will do it sometime before the deadline. It means that he will run for a second mandate in a row. He was sued several times for various crimes but the Court never sentenced him. In fact, his friendship with the Republika Srpska president, Milorad Dodik, is the thorn in the eye of the SDA. This friendship is what people describe as the biggest danger to statehood since the two of them always support each other.

Čović is trying to find the way to establish his party as the most important Croat party in the state. Being a Presidency member would help.

Željko Komšić (Democratic Front – DF)

Now, the situation becomes interesting. In the past, during two mandates, Komšić was the Croat member of BiH Presidency as the candidate of the Social Democratic Party.

He was elected by the Bosniaks in cantons where they are majority.

He did not listen to the Croats and their initiatives.

He was loyal to the Bosniak policies and voted in favour of their proposals in the BiH Presidency.

In fact, he is the reason that Čović, Božo Ljubić and other Croat politicians now demand the change of the Election Law.

Komšić left the SDP and formed an entirely new party, the Democratic Front, gathering a number of the unsatisfied SDP members. However, after a few years it is clear that this project has been a failure and today Komšić is in the battle to keep the members and prevent them from rejoining the SDP. Since the Law remains unchanged, Komšić can expect the votes from Bosniaks who respect him as the bearer of the biggest war medal – the Golden Lilium (Zlatni Ljiljan).

But, that is not the best part! After Komšić left the SDP and formed the DF, there was a dispute among members of the new party and prominent members Emir Suljagić and Reuf Bajrović were expelled. They then decided to establish another party, the Citizens Union (Građanski savez – GS) but without any capacity to enter even in the smallest assembly in the country. Believe it or not, it was a surprise indeed when, in coalition with their former party, they joined the Democratic Front. At present, they are all united against the SDP BiH, which refused to form a coalition with them.

Confusing? To foreigners maybe but not to BiH citizens!

Boriša Falatar (Our Party – NS)

The new name in the political scene of the country, yet Boriša Falatar has joined the pre-election game with high hopes. He expects the votes of those Croats who are sick and tired of the same politicians and want to see new face.

This can be his advantage because many public opinion polls show that citizens are ready for a new reality. In fact, many analysts agree that the BiH political scene needs “fresh blood” and new ideas in order to move forward, towards a normal life. Falatar can be a promising face but, very possibly, his candidacy has chances equivalent to zero -or, practically speaking it feels like seeing a snowball rolling down from the Kilauea during eruption moments. Still, somebody has to make the first step.

Serb member of the BiH Presidency

Serb citizens in BiH maybe have the easiest task in these elections. Just two candidates, both of them experienced politicians. It means that, straight from the start voters know “who is who” and what they stand for.

Mladen Ivanić (Party of Democratic Progress RS – PDP RS)

“Cold blooded” thinking and political wisdom are maybe the top two assets-traits of the present Serb member of BiH’s Presidency, Mladen Ivanić. Since he established PDP as an alternative to the Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), Ivanić presented himself as the man who knows when to speak and when to listen. His party led the coalition, which during one mandate took the power in the Republic of Srpska with him being the then Prime Minister. After that, the PDP has held the role of the eternal opposition, along with the Serb Democratic Party, People’s Democratic Union and smaller parties, gathered under an umbrella called “Alliance for changes”. The fact is that, at the last election battle, Ivanić faced the SNSD candidate head on and won the position at the Presidency. His opponent at that time was SNSD Željka Cvijanović, present RS PM and future candidate for the RS Presidency.

Ivanić has many chances because he has people who have been “religiously” voting for him, but the campaign must be very clever and without any kind of mistakes. Every, mistake, even the smallest, would be exaggerated by the SNSD and presented as  evidence of a catastrophic politicy.

Milorad Dodik (Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats)

Temperament combined with charisma is the best description of this hardly predictable politician. He well knows what politics mean, he is aware what being in it is all about and wants the last bit of it; the most exceptional; the position as the Serb member of the BiH Presidency.

In fact, there is one more position that he would wish to be elected in – that of the first president of the Independent Republika Srpska.

He knows it is a “dream” hard to come true but at every public appearance of his, he is making clear that Bosnia and Herzegovina is not his homeland. As a matter of fact he believes that Republika Srpska will be an independent state at some point. For now, he firmly rejects all BiH joint institutions established outside the Dayton Peace Agreement frame. The Presidency, however, is not one of them, thus Dodik will run for the position. The question is: why does he want that?

As it was said, he is unpredictable but one thing is for sure – Dodik will not do anything that would strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina as a state, or its institutions. Earlier on he had said that he would not even be in Sarajevo at ‘his’ office but rather he would follow sessions via video call from Banja Luka.

His friendship with Dragan Čović, the HDZ candidate and present Croat member of the BiH Presidency is considered the greatest state danger by Bosniak politicians. The two of them are allowed to outvote the Bosniak member and, if so, none of Bosniak ideas would be accepted. The most possible scenario is that they will try to discredit Dodik as the candidate who disputes the existence of the country, has separatist ideas and already is under international sanctions. It is possible that Bosniaks will fill the complaint over Dodik’s candidacy right after the Central Election Commission BiH verifies it, and that they will ask for the intervention of the international community.

If that happens, then Dodik’s hatred for BiH would reach the skies.

President of the Republika Srpska

Maybe the biggest challenge for voters will be to choose the president of the Republika Srpska. According to the RS system, this entity has one president (Serb) and two vice presidents (Bosniak and Croat) and they are elected on direct election. In other entity, Federation BiH, president and vice presidents are appointed by the Assembly. RS voters on General Election will have two candidates for president, but looks that both of them have more opposition than supporters.

Željka Cvijanović (Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats – SNSD)

Some people said that Milorad Dodik blindly trusts three ladies only: his mother, his wife and Željka Cvijanović.

Cvijanović is the English language professor with experience in international organisations. She was a minister in the RS government and, when the SNSD decided to remove Aleksandar Džombić from the PM’s position five years ago, she sat on his chair. Cvijanović was re-elected in that same position at the General Elections of 2014. Now, she will be a candidate for the RS presidency but many members of the same party think that there were a few better candidates than her.

Cvijanović’s top asset is that she often speaks in a bewildering way. Apparently she is no one’s enemy but perhaps this is because of who she is (Dodik stand’s behind her).

According to numerous opponents of hers, her political ability to run the entity can be described as “sit behind your desk and do what Dodik says”.

Vukota Govedarica (Serb Democratic Party – SDS)

President of the biggest Serbian party in BiH, he is yet another “young and promising” politician. Brave as an MP in the Republika Srpska National Assembly, he is eloquent and educated enough to stand against many of those who oppose him. The problem is that many consider him the “extension” of the former SDS president, Mladen Bosić.

Govedarica will have the support of the members of the “Alliance for Changes” but numerically wise the SNSD voters outnumber them. Like Željka Cvijanović, he is not the person that the Republika Srpska needs right now…. / IBNA

Photos of candidates, Dodik, Cvijanović, Ivanić, Govedarica, Čović and Radončić by Mladen Dragojlovic