Thoughts about the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Damir Borovac (Bosnia and Herzegovina, UWCiM 09′-11′)

In most of the countries general elections are bringing a ray of hope, a possibility for a needed change and generally injecting a new source of confidence into the society. The case in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) is much alike, but the post-election forming of government usually takes too long, so in the end citizens forget that they have recently voted. Even worse is the realisation that nothing has changed!

Time is, of course, needed for the politicians to implement all of the promised policies and since the end of the war, people have been waiting for a change and a step forward. What they got is the chance to choose among the same politicians who are still, 15 years after, the leaders of the same, mostly ethnic political parties, and who are still ‘selling’ the same old story about the endangerment of their ethnic group and the threats that others represent to its well-being and prosperity.

The omnipresent nationalism of ethnic groups is unfortunately still one of the biggest issues in B&H. The struggles and divisions along ethnic lines basically prevent, and even worse, in many cases completely block country’s development and EU integration. The reason for this is that most of the candidates are selected strictly on the basis of their ethnic background, by being Bosniaks, Croats or Serbs. So called “others” (members of ethnic minorities, people of mixed origin or those who don’t want to identify themselves on ethnic basis) hardly have the opportunity to be elected in the electoral system derived from the Dayton Peace Accord which ended the war back in 1995. This regulation is even declared illegal by the European Court of Justice in Strasbourg, but unfortunately, such ruling didn’t bring any change in the election law in 2010 despite B&H membership in the European Council.

The existing election system based on the strict ethnic criteria and entity voting (Dayton Peace Accord, under which the country was divided into two entities – Federation of B&H, populated mostly by Bosniaks and Croats, and Republika Srpska mostly populated by Serbs) creates its own absurdities. Perhaps, the best example is the election of the Croat member of the State Presidency. As the smallest ethnic group in B&H, Croats feel insecure and unhappy because their representative in the State Presidency is Željko Komšić, the representative of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), and not any of the candidates from the major Croat parties in B&H. Croats argue that Komšić is re-elected as a Croat member of the Presidency mainly thanks to the Bosnian votes who, therefore, in their opinion, now have two representatives in the Presidency. Therefore, the Croats in B&H stated that they were again outvoted and that the rest of the country was unfair to them. On the other hand, many irregularities during the election process put a shadow on the results for the Serb member of the Presidency in the elections in the Republika Srpska.

But, at least, the Presidency is the only part of the government that has been formed after general elections in early October. The fight for national rights and ethnic identity is still happening at all levels. Bosnia and Herzegovina may soon become a witness to the strangest possible coalitions at state, entity and cantonal levels (B&H is one of the most bureaucratic countries in the world with four levels of government and over 300 ministers). The results of the elections in which non-national Social Democratic Party won majority of votes at state level are in the second plan, whilst furious fight for power is happening in front of the disappointed voters who are barely surviving. You guess that the main argument is again which ethnic group “deserves” to give Prime Minister in the next period. Not less stunning argument in post-election negotiations is who contributed most to the recent abolishment of the EU visa regime for B&H citizens.

The citizens may either sit and wait for a change to happen or try to take some radical actions in order to bring light to this endless tunnel of darkness, where ordinary people start to lose their patience, will and faith in the state.

-United Words College Student Magazine-

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