Bosnia goes to the polls, but how long will the country last?


News from the NOStoday, 08:36

  • David Jan Godfroid

    Balkan correspondent

  • David Jan Godfroid

    Balkan correspondent

The war in Bosnia and Herzegovina has been going on for more than a quarter of a century, yet in many ways it is as if it only ended yesterday. The country does not work or is barely functioning. The possibility of it breaking is certainly not imaginary. Nor is there any possibility that this is accompanied by violence.

Today the three members of the rotating presidency of the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina are elected: a Bosnian (Bosnian Muslim), a Serbian and a Croatian. We also vote for the parliaments of the two ‘entities’ that make up Bosnia and Herzegovina: the Croatian-Muslim Federation and the Serbian Republic. And finally, Bosnians and Croats elect parliaments in their ten cantons. Voting takes place almost exclusively for ethnic lines. Bosnians generally vote for Bosnians, Serbs for Serbs and Croats for Croats.

Stability never achieved

In 1995, that facility was the only way to end the bloody war in Bosnia. At the time, US President Clinton and his negotiator Richard Holbrooke took a huge effort to bring the warring parties to a table in Dayton and Serbia would never have signed if there was not great autonomy for the Serbian side. the country, the population. They got it in their Serbian Republic, one of the two entities. Bosnians and Croats took control of the Croatian-Muslim Federation.

The hope was that the animosity among the population groups would fade over time and that politics would follow suit. Over the years, Bosnia would function as a democracy in which different population groups would work closely together was the guiding idea. And in the event that the differences of opinion proved insoluble, an international High Representative was appointed. He can make decisions and even revoke laws that national, regional and local parliaments have already passed. It never worked well.

We are moving towards independence. You can follow me in this or you can accept the oppression.

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is particularly accused of this. He once started as an enlightened successor to war leader Radovan Karadzic, but over the years he has become increasingly nationalist and authoritarian. For years he has alluded to secession from his Serbian Republic. According to him, Bosnians, Croats and the western part of the international community would rather lose the Serbs than get rich.

That separation has therefore been above the market for years. Earlier this year, Dodik actually took concrete steps. He withdrew the representatives of the Serbian Republic from common institutions such as the judiciary, taxation and defense. He doesn’t care that Sarajevo’s national government is responsible for foreign policy. He personally maintains warm ties with Russian President Putin. Last month he visited the Kremlin. “We are moving towards independence,” he told Serbian television. “You can follow me in this or you can accept the oppression.”

Dodik may be the biggest security threat to Bosnia’s survival, but it’s not the only one. Some Croatians, backed by the Croatian government in Zagreb, want a stronger position for the smallest group of the country’s population. They want their own entity and therefore the dissolution of the Croatian-Muslim Federation. The Bosniaks are firmly against this.

Meanwhile, Bosnia faces a host of problems that receive little or no attention from the dysfunctional state: corruption, emaciated economy, inflation, and a host of other issues that plague its citizens on a daily basis. Tens of thousands leave each year in hopes of finding a better future elsewhere. Today’s elections will not change that.

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