Nationalists win hotly contested Bosnian election

Nationalists win hotly contested Bosnian election
Milorad Dodik, who is on track to become the Serb member of Bosnia's tripartite presidency, addresses supporters early on October 8.
By Denitsa Koseva in Sofia October 8, 2018

Bosnia & Herzegovina’s general election produced few surprises as the leaders of nationalistic parties as expected gained the most votes, according to preliminary results from the Central Election Committee (CIK) based on 741,599 counted votes.

The politically divided country voted in the eighth general election since the end of the 1992-1995 war, picking the members of the state-level tripartite presidency, the state parliament and the assemblies in the two entities — the Muslim-Croat Federation and Republika Srpska — as well as for the parliament in the autonomous Brcko District and the presidency of Republika Srpska.

As expected, secessionist Milorad Dodik, leader of the Serb Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), won most of the votes (55.15%) to become the Serb member of the state-level presidency ahead of his rival, Mladen Ivanic of the coalition Savez za Promjene (SzP) who gained 41.8%.

Dodik has been known for his secessionist ideas for years and is under US sanctions after he repeatedly defied the state-level authorities. He has many times said that he will work for Republika Srpska’s secession, even if elected as a member of the state-level presidency.

As expected, Dodik’s first statements were nationalistic. He said that he will focus on Serbs in his work at the state-level presidency, and pledged to show his loyalty to the Serb entity first even when swearing for his new post.

“I think that the swearing in is not a reflection of the constitutional position and I shall swear in at the National Assembly of Republika Srpska. After I do this, I believe I will have sworn to those who have chosen me. In the presidency I will sit in, Republika Srpka’s flag must be raised,” Dodik said during his first post-elector press conference.

One surprise came in the election for the Croat presidential seat, which will be taken by Zeljko Komsic of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Wins coalition. Komsic got 49.47%, putting him ahead of nationalist Dragan Covic, leader of the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia & Herzegovina (HDZ BiH), who got 38.66% support. Komsic’s election to the Croat seat may lead to a calmer situation within Bosnia than anticipated under Covic, due to Covic’s aspirations to create a new Croat entity within Bosnia. Covic and Dodik had supported each others aims to alter the map of Bosnia. 

Covic said that he lost the race as Bosniaks elected both Croat and Bosniak members of the presidency, as they are a significant majority in the Muslim-Croat Federation. Covic again repeated his goal of a new entity after the first results came out.

“We counted on some 140,000 votes in the election for the member of the presidency of BiH. I think that this number will be around 10% higher. The Croat people have sent a very clear message to all in BiH, to their friends the Bosniaks and friends the Serbs, and the international community that [the Croats] are a constitutive people,” Covic said.

Komsic’s statement was completely different in tone and content. He said that the current establishment has allowed him to be there (as president elect) and that they have no reasons to fear. He also said that he is president to all Croats, whatever their votes.

Not surprisingly, Sefik Dzaferovic, the candidate of the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), also gained the highest support of 37.97% among Bosniak voters, and will most likely replace the party’s leader, Bakir Izetbegovic, in the presidency. Izetbegovic has served two mandates in the post and was not allowed to run for a third time.

However, Dzaferovic’s victory was not that certain as Denis Becirovic of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) had 33.4% support.

The Dayton Peace accord that ended the 1992-1995 war established a complex set of institutions, hence the large number of elections taking place on October 7.

Over the years there have been various attempts to alter the balance between the various levels of government, in particular Dodik’s calls for secession from his power base in Republika Srpska.

Meanwhile, preliminary results for the three parliaments more or less repeated those from the last election in 2014. In the state-level and Federation’s parliaments, the SDA won most votes, while in Republika Srpska Dodik’s SNSD gained the highest support.

In the Federation’s parliament SDA has got 25.31% of the votes, followed by HDZ (18.65%), SDP (13.93%), the Democratic Front (8.88%) and the SBB (6.06%).

In Republika Srpska, the SNSD has 39.58%, followed by several opposition parties that united for the presidency race, but were not in coalition for the parliament — the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) got 12.31%, the National Democratic Movement (DNS) had 10.16% and the Socialist Party (SP) gained 4.66% support.

In Republika Srpska Dodik’s loyal party ally, Zeljka Cvijanovic (currently the entity’s prime minister) won the race to become the entity’s president with 47.67% of the votes, ahead of civic-oriented Vukota Govedarica who got 42.63%. The result was based on 78.57% of votes counted by the CIK.