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A Bosnian enemy image

October 15th, 2018
by:Katarina Panić
located in:Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia, Croatia
tags:Bosnia, elections, nationalism

The general election in Bosnia on October 7th apparently showed its citizens are keen to keep their nationalistic oriented leaders rather than move towards EU and NATO integration. Ethnically-charged rhetoric has been used by political elites to persuade the people to vote for them in order to be protected from "the others“.

By creating “an enemy image“ among Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, their leading politicians hide their incapability to fight against the corruption, the partocracy and the large-scale emigration of young and talented people from the country.

“I sometimes wonder who the people needed to be protected from: other ethnic groups or their own politicians”, Valentin Inzko, the High Representative of International Community in Bosnia told to local newspaper prior to elections. “Unfortunately, there has been too little attention and focus on the real needs of the citizens: better pensions, education, justice, the quality of healthcare, investments, more jobs, security. Instead, some political parties and candidates seem more inclined to focus their energy on divisive rhetoric and demagoguery. Listening to the speeches and reading the remarks of some candidates on a daily basis, it is impossible not to come to the conclusion that their primary objective is self-interest rather than what’s best for the country and its people”, he added.

Although Bosnia’s Central Election Commission (CIK) still counts the ballots cast, it is known so far that Bosniaks predominantly voted for the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Serbs for the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and Croats for the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). In the same time, SDA and SNSD won seats in the tripartite inter-ethnic presidency with their candidates Šefik Džaferović and Milorad Dodik, while leading Croat's hard-line politician Dragan Čović was defeated by liberal candidate Željko Komšić. That is due to the complicated voting system allowing the Croatpresidentiall seat being elected by Bosniaks' votes and vice versa.

Such an electoral system, as well as the country's complex governing system, were created by the Dayton peace accord that 23 years ago ended the war which left 100,000 people dead and millions of refugees. Turnout on Sunday's election was 53.36% of 3.3 million Bosnians, similar to the previous general election. The results are not likely to ease Bosnia's current political crisis; on the contrary, they could produce several more.

In three-member state presidency, Dodik is the one who advocates eventual Serb separation from Bosnia, stronger alliance to Russian President Vladimir Putin and ending of international community power in Bosnia, which still may impose or abolish the laws. Dodik is blacklisted by the United States since he “has defied the Constitutional Court of BiH, violated the rule of law and poses a significant risk of obstructing the implementation of the Dayton accords”. In the late nineties, Dodik was a very constructive partner of the International Community, but he gradually has moved away from social-democracy ever since he took the power in 2006. It caused the Socialist International to exclude his party from its membership and it led him to connect with radical parties in Austria and France.

Džaferović, Bosniaks' representative in the the presidency, had been blamed by Serbs for war crimes against Serbs, but such allegations never reached judiciary. His party is the one which advocates a stronger relationship with Turkey, recalling the fact that Bosnia was a part of the Ottoman Empire for more than four centuries. Bosniaks are also blamed by others for not having more strict migration policy relating the fact most migrants are Muslims as well as Bosniaks.

It is hard to imagine Komšić, who should represent the Croats in the state presidency, will be supported by HDZ's nationalists who have majority in all the parliaments when it is about the Croats. Both Bosnia's Serbs and Croats want to be closer to their neighbouring Serbia and Croatia, while the Bosniaks want to keep Bosnia in unity. In such an environment, Komšić's recent statement that he loves Bosnia more than Croatia was strongly condemned by local Croats and his main rival, the right-wing leader Čović announced a possible blockade of institutions.

“No, I'm not for the ruling parties. But what does the opposition do? It is such an opposition that everyone who is in power would simply like to have it. It is not difficult to keep the power if you have an opposition as we do”, says a young man from Bosnia's north-west town of Prijedor.

“I do believe in Dodik and I will vote for him for the rest of my life or as long as he is the candidate. How do you mean ‘why’? Because he protects us, he protects Republika Srpska”, one retired man says for fairplanet.

“It is all the same for me. All the politicians are the same. That is why I never vote. I think it is senseless”, a lady in forties says.

“The fact is that politicians don't live in the same reality as we, their citizens. When I talk with ordinary people on the street or in the market on the one side and with the politicians on the other side, no matter from which ethnic group, the very first and strongest conclusion is they hardly have anything in common. They simply don't meet each other and, therefore, the politicians are not capable to meet their citizens' requirements”, Srećko Latal, a Sarajevo-based analyst told local media after the election.

Bosnia's civil society organisation formed a group named “Pod lupom“ (under the magnifier) to monitor and observe the election. They claimed almost 400 cases of different types of irregularity which allows many kinds of engineered and artificial support and therefore possible fake results. Election law amendments in Bosnia was on the agenda – not only because of its numerous disadvantages but because the European Court of Human Rights ordered this law to be changed too. Yet, the lawmakers couldn't reach the agreement.

“Being somewhat ironic, I am afraid that the International Community has not intervened enough. We should have been more insistent when it comes to ballot scanning and other technical improvements that would help ensure a free and fair election”, Inzko concluded.

Meanwhile, some Bosnians expressed their attitude regarding the election consciously by making their ballot invalid. So, they voted for Angela Merkel, Chancellor of Germany, explaining that “everyone will move to Germany anyway“, some made jokes voting for football players Modrić, Salah, Ronaldo and Messi, and some did it in favour of Davor Dragičević, whose 21-years-old son David's death from March this year is still unresolved and group “Justice for David“ is protesting every day on the main square in Banja Luka ever since.

Article written by:
Katarina Panić
Katarina Panić
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By creating „an enemy image“ among Bosniaks, Serbs, and Croats, their leading politicians hide their incapability to fight against the corruption.
Unfortunately, there has been too little attention and focus on the real needs of the citizens: better pensions, education, justice, the quality of healthcare, investments, more jobs, security.
Some political parties and candidates seem to be inclined to focus their energy on divisive rhetoric and demagoguery.
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