Monday, 17.10.2022

The Left in the Presidency; the Right in the Government.

Voters in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s recent elections put on their Seven-League Boots twice over. Not only did they elect the leftists to the state presidency, but women candidates dominated the October election day. This really should not be seen as a laughing matter because the new members of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina are: Ms. Željka Cvijanović from the SNSD, Mr. Denis Bećirović, from the SDP, and Mr. Željko Komšić, from the Democratic Front. However, there certainly is wry amusement to be found in the track record of the SNSD; the party owned by Mr. Milorad Dodik. In post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina, since this party set about developing its own absolutism, over a ten-year period, it has renounced its leftist outlook and turned to nationalism. This nationalist stance has provided a political banner to obscure and hide all kinds of criminal activities; to cover up the mismanagement of public resources, and wide-spread nepotism.

Cvijanović may be the first woman to be elected to the very top echelons of the state after the war, but she is by no means the only one who made an impression on these elections: Ms. Jelena Trivić, one of the young tyros of the PDP, ran for a few hours as a (self)proclaimed president of Republika Srpska. She was way ahead in the race against Mr. Milorad Dodik, to such an extent that the opposition coalition, which supported her, calculated that it stood on firm enough ground to declare victory. That these elections were ‘to be or not to be’ for Mr. Dodik, was a well-known fact through his campaign, during which messages arrived, even from Belgrade, signalling that the master of the Serb World - Aleksandar Vučić - had decided to flush Dodik down the drain. That's why Dodik, the ruler from Laktaši, put his electoral board on high alert. Tensions ran high, perhaps best illustrated by incidents such as these: at a polling station in Doboj, even an OSCE observer was physically attacked; while in Zvornik, a town located on the border between Bosnia and Herzegovina and Serbia, armed civilians marched around polling stations glorifying their leader Dodik.

Then, sometime after midnight, as Ms. Jelena Trivić was celebrating in the streets of Banja Luka, miraculously, the results turned in favor of the SNSD leader, who, just before dawn, declared that he was, once again, the president of Republika Srpska.

The day after the elections, the opposition announced they would go to court, having recorded numerous instances of voter fraud. However, considering that in Republika Srpska, Dodik owns not only his party, but also this entity’s public institutions, including the RTRS public broadcast service, few are ready to believe that the final election result will be challenged. Even more so, since his SNSD has won the largest number of seats both in the Assembly of Republika Srpska and the largest number of seats from Republika Srpska that participate in the state Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Ms. Borjana Krišto, the presidential candidate put forward by the HDZ and other political parties gathered around this strongest party of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, lost to Mr. Željko Komšić, who has now won the seat in the state Presidency for the fourth time. Initially, her candidacy had been announced by the HDZ leader Mr. Dragan Čović, in a typical male Balkan manner, presenting Ms. Krišto’s feminine beauty as a wonderful favour that his party intended to bestow on voters. All the while, a considerable number of analysts from neighboring Croatia argued that a victory for Ms. Borjana Krišto definitely would not be in the interests of the HDZ. The reason for such unedifying arguments is in the much-discussed amendments to the BiH Election Law.  It is these amendments that the HDZ has cited for years as its basis for blocking all parliamentary decisions in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, in these recent elections, directly after the polling stations closed, the High Representative to BiH, Mr. Christian Schmidt, imposed a set of legal provisions which lay down deadlines within which the formation of the government will take place. In any case, in a country with such a complicated system as BiH endures, where ethnicity is glorified and is abused excessively by nationalist parties, the HDZ has also won a sufficient number of seats to be considered one of the winners of these elections. They will now need to negotiate how to form a government with the SDA, the party which has won greatest confidence amongst Bosniak voters, but whose leader, Mr. Bakir Izetbegović, was defeated in the race for the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

There is, however, yet another woman in the picture – Ms. Sebija Izetbegović, the director of the largest health care centre in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Clinical Centre in Sarajevo. She is the backbone of the SDA list in Sarajevo Canton and, on to top it all, the wife of this party’s current leader. Their spousal campaign was designed and conducted jointly, articulated in such a way that only the family name Izetbegović appeared on all billboards. This was supposed to be a reference back to the founder of the SDA and the father of the current party leader – Mr. Alija Izetbegović. But not even this reference could lessen the public’s odium towards the married couple. The SDA did win convincingly, but its leader suffered an even more convincing defeat. This, nevertheless, did not prevent him from stating – in his first post-election address – that he was not even considering resigning from the party leadership position.

All this makes Dr. Denis Bećirović the biggest winner of the October elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Owing to the support of the united opposition, Denis's parent party, the SDP BiH, improved on its previous election results. The Sarajevo Troika, which also comprises Narod i pravda, the party of the former SDA tyro Mr. Elmedin Konaković, and the liberal party Naša stranka, headed by Mr. Edin Forto, has become an important force in parliaments at all levels of government in Bosnia and Herzegovina. However, what is now ensuing is a period of post-election strife and negotiations about who will enter what kind of a coalition and with whom. The magic word – compromise – was banished from politics in Bosnia and Herzegovina a long time ago. Indeed, if we consider the outcomes for the three largest political parties, the rightists have gained even more ground, whilst the leftists have the majority in the state Presidency. In gambling terms – every game is a chance to win. In these elections, everyone can claim to be a winner, while, in reality, Bosnia and Herzegovina loses more by the day – there are no reforms, no investments in the economy, and the buses run full of young people going West, never to return to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

This is a country where being a politician is still the most profitable profession, even though all politics boils down to the famous strategy of divide-and-rule. This will continue to be the case until voters wake up to the basic economics of the situation,  which unmistakably show that the high salaries enjoyed by the elected officials cannot explain the excessive wealth that these people have.  Alongside this new comprehension, voters also need to start holding these officials accountable – each and every one of them. Currently, the USA seems to be the only nation doing this by meticulously expanding its blacklist. However, the USA is a long way away from BiH – our power lords pick far closer destinations, choosing to travel closer to home for their rest and relaxation. All this must serve to emphasise that pressure on the authorities – whichever authorities they may be – remains as the only strategy in the fight for equality before the law throughout Bosnia and Herzegovina, regardless of one’s ethnicity, gender and/or sexual orientation. So that women – and not only the wives of the powerful – may also gain real power.

Text: Vildana Selimbegović

English translation: Damir Arsenijević

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