Nationalism and divisions after the vote

The 12 October elections won't solve the Country's problems. Topic: "A State divided into cantons, like Switzerland, is a better option"

Preliminary figures on the outcomes of political elections in Bosnia Herzegovina held October 12 highlight a specific trend at national level. In fact, in addition to high abstention-rates, (estimated at 46%, thereby confirming citizens’ disaffection for politics, including the young generation that went to the polls for the first time after the conflict), also nationalist party candidates have gained conspicuous popular support. As for the election of candidates to the three-party presidency, the most prominent result is the re-election of outgoing president Bakir Izetbegovic (son of Alija Izetbegovic, first president of Bosnia) from the nationalistic Party SDA (Democratic action party) for the Muslim seat, and of Dragan Covic, leader of HDZ (Croatian democratic Union of Bosnia Herzegovina), the nationalistic, pro-Croatian party representing the Croatian seat. The former outnumbered ten candidates including media tycoon Fahrudin Radoncic (forty thousand votes more) and Emir Suljagic. The latter ran for the Democratic Front, a cross-party, innovative political force against Bosnian electoral backdrop. But he failed to gain popular support. When the present article was written the candidate for Alliance for Change (PPD) Mladen Ivanic appears to have beaten by a whisker his opponent to the Serbian seat to three-party presidency Zeljka Cvijanovic (Snsd), supported by the President of the Serbian Republic Milorad Dodik. The scenario is rather disappointing also considering a “political system conceived, after the Dayton agreements, on ethnical grounds, which does not facilitate the democratization of Bosnia Herzegovina”, remarked Franjo Topic, University Professor, chairman of the Croatian-Catholic Sarajevo-based association Napredak. The priest, an authoritative representative of religious culture in Bosnia, dedicated the past 25 years of his life to the promotion of cultural development within the Catholic realm in the Balkans. Michela Mosconi for SIR asked his opinion on the outcomes of the election.  Monsignor Topic, what are the main trends emerging from the electoral results? “The current situation mirrors that of 1990, the basic features are the same. The large nationalistic parties like SDA or HDZ have prevailed over other their opponents. There are few chances of change. There cannot be a transformation with these two political factions. The Croatian-Muslim Federation and the Serbian Republic of Bosnia (RS) are in fact two independent States. Each Entity is independent. The situation is further complicated by the fact that the Serbian area has been “ethnically” cleansed. Also the Federation is a complex machine. There is a great unbalance between the Muslim majority and the Croatian minority. The Constitution should be changed. It’s crucial”. In the light of these results, what future do you envisage for Bosnia Herzegovina? “I foresee a standstill. As things stand, there are no chances of change. The situation is worsened by the fact that the present re-elected president of RS, Milorad Dodik, has been advocating recession for years. There is an authentic threat of Serbian secessionism, and Dodik will continue pursuing this goal. Even HDZ nationalist party appears to support a third entity for the Croatian side. This cannot work”. What hopes are left for the Country? “In my opinion, a stable State cannot be created given the current situation of the Country formed by two Entities. Bosnia-Herzegovina as it was conceived by the Dayton agreements is not functional and entails very high costs. We have a large number of ministers, far too many for a small Country such as ours. A large portion of national GDP covers public administration expenditure”. What can be changed, and how? “I believe that a Country re-organized in cantons and provinces, on the Swiss model, for example, would be a better option. A stronger State at central level would ensure the respect of individual and collective rights”. Moreover, all involved parties should take their responsibilities, notably Bosnian citizens, by exercising their right to vote, one of the major rights. Without the support of the international community however, a veritable national reconstruction will never occur”.

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