Quo vadis Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Analysis of the current political stalemate

, by Bojan Tomic

Quo vadis Bosnia and Herzegovina?

Two months after the elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a government at state level is still not formed, because there is no agreement between the confronting parties. If we take a look back at the pre-election campaign, the current stalemate comes as no surprise.

A collision between two different perspectives for Bosnia’s future can only lead to further blocking of already poorly functional institutions at state level. Insulting and threatening campaigns on all sides had created an atmosphere similar to the one in the early 1990’s, just before the war.

It seems that achieving a homogenisation of the electoral body was the only aim.

Campaigning and election results

We had general elections, choosing our candidates for presidents and members of parliament at state, entity and cantonal level [1].

The citizens in the Republika Srpska (RS) voted for the Serbian member of the rotating BiH presidency, the President of RS and members of their RS parliament, while their counterparts in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) voted for the Muslim and Croat members of the Presidency, two presidents of FBiH, members of the FBiH parliament and cantonal parliaments.

political parties making their mark

The most homogenous ethnic group in the past election were the Serbs. They gave their votes to the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats(SNSD), which after elections gained absolute power in the RS (President and majority in the RS parliament), a member of the presidency at state level and the majority of Serbian places in the state parliament. The secret of their success is Milorad Dodik, leader of the SNSD, who made his name by opposing to the politics of Karadzic in the mid-nineties. A populist, a man from and of the people, a singer, and a two-meter high authority, who had based all his pre-election campaign on protecting the RS, at times even threatening whit a referendum for secession of RS from BiH. His tactic was simple - create a non-existing threat for the survival of Republika Srpska and unite the electoral body.

Dodik found the alleged danger for the survival of Serbs in the BiH in Haris Silajdzic and his Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina. With the campaign slogan „100% BiH“ he was the main proponent of the idea of a unitaristic BiH. One citizen - one vote was the simple concept of that idea. Given the fact that Muslims represent a majority in BiH that was a clear enough sign to Dodik for the need to stand up and start threatening with dissolution of Bosnia and an independence referendum. That’s how they won the election, with a simple “bouncing-the- ball-strategy”.

The welcoming decrease in nationalistic rhetoric and positive moves in the direction of constituting a dialogue was destroyed for needs of pre-election campaigns.

In the Croatian political camp within Bosnia and Herzegovina an important change took place. The Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina(HDZ), once the most popular party among Croats, split in two fractions just a few months before the elections [2]. The consequences were costly as they lost the place in the state presidency, which was traditionally reserved for their members. This place is now occupied by Zeljko Komsic, a candidate of the multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP).

let’s talk nationalism, shall we?

The shift of traditionally nationalistic party, such as the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), which ruled with HDZ in the years after the Dayton Agreement was signed in 1995, towards softer stands and more dialogical points of view, was used by parties that declare themselves as antinationalistic, democratic and civilian.

This welcoming decrease in nationalistic rhetoric and positive moves in the direction of constituting a dialogue was destroyed for needs of pre-election campaigns.

Ethnic mobilisation of people and the instrumentalisation of ethnic feelings and disaffections have prooved to be the most effective method in the political battle for votes,

ever since the first multiparty elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina back in 1990. Gathering around ethnic identity in front of potential danger from the “Other” and "Different" is still a powerful weapon in hands of ethnic political elites.

This situation is best represented in the non-existence of a political platform at state level. Instead of a political platform we are offered a so-called mathematical coalition or, how they like to call it, partnership relations. These relations are putting down our parliamentary system to inter-party confrontations of subjects, which build their legitimacy on war and post-war ideology.


This structure based on the Dayton Agreement - which was initially meant to be a necessary measure for stopping the war, but had become our de facto constitution - allows war elites to continue their policies in the transition period.

Additional information:

*Political divisions of Bosnia and Herzegovina from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia. *List of political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.


*Map of Bosnia and Herzegovina, source: Wikipedia.


[1Bosnia and Herzegovina is a federation composed of two entities: Rebublic of Srpska (RS) and Federation of Bosnia and Hercegovina (FBiH). RS is centralised in form of a republic with municipalities. FBiH is a federation of Bosniaks (Bosnian muslims) and Croats and has a cantonal organisation. There are 3 rotating presidents at state level, 2 presidents at entity level, 13 prime ministers, over 180 ministers, 760 members of various legislative bodies and 148 municipalities.

[2Dragan Covic, leader of the original HDZ was recently convincted for a five years penalty in prison for misusage and malversation.

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