Bosnia votes in times of ethnic divisions
Bosnians vote in Sunday’s parliamentary elections in a country mired in a political crisis and torn by growing ethnic divisions that threaten its integrity.
Between threats of secession from the Orthodox Serbs, frustrations from the Catholic Croats who no longer want to live with Bosnian Muslims, and many of the latter’s dreams of a “civil state,” many fear new turbulence after the election.
The small, poor Balkan country is split between a Serb entity, the Republika Srpska (RS), and a Croatian-Muslim federation, linked by a weak, often crippled, central power. This system is the legacy of the 1995 Dayton Accords (United States) which ended the war in which 100,000 people were killed.
The various political leaders have promised stability by putting their ballots in the ballot box. But voters seemed dubious as they took part in this complex vote to appoint the three members of Bosnia’s collegial presidium, deputies to the central parliament and the two entities, and, in the Republika Srpska, the presidium.
“I hope for nothing, I vote because it’s the only thing I can do as an individual,” Amra Besic, a 57-year-old economist, told AFP as she dropped her ballot into the ballot box. Sarajevo.
At RS, Anita Milenkovic, a 42-year-old singer, was no less disaffected. “I’m not very optimistic” about the country’s future, she told AFP. “The biggest problem is that they cannot agree, our leaders.”
– mass emigration –
In all three communities, long-time leaders are engaging in nationalist supremacy to remain in power, while those who face a lack of political and economic prospects may choose exile.
Almost 500,000 people have fled the country since the last census in 2013, when local NGO Union for a Sustainable Return estimated it had a population of 3.5 million.
Milorad Dodik, the indestructible political leader of the Bosnian Serbs and outgoing Serb representative of the collegial presidium, is running for the RS presidency this time. The 63-year-old nationalist has multiplied secessionist threats in recent months, which have earned him sanctions from Washington and London, and has repeatedly reiterated that Bosnia is a “failed” country.
“People are motivated to vote for stability, peace and secure life in this region,” he assured after throwing his ballot into the ballot box in his home village of Laktasi.
Some analysts are counting on a victory for this great admirer of Russian President Vladimir Putin, even as his main rival Yelena Trivic, a 39-year-old academic, says otherwise.
She also plays on the nationalist tightrope, but promises to kill the kleptocracy she believes established by Milorad Dodik. “Our vengeance will be exercised by law,” she said.
– boycott –
In the Bosnian community, Bakir Izetbegovic, leader of the main party, the nationalist SDA, which has dominated political life for decades, is seeking a third term in the Muslim seat of the tripartite presidency. He called on Bosnians to elect representatives “who will not create blockades and crises that will not drive young people out of Bosnia and Herzegovina.”
However, the son of independent Bosnia’s first president is playing a tougher game than before against a candidate backed by 11 opposition parties. Denis Becirovic, a 46-year-old history teacher, advocates a “pro-European and united” Bosnia.
For their part, the Croats, who have been threatening an election boycott for months, are unhappy at having to share a federation with the Bosnians. All Croatian parties are demanding their own entity or at least a change in the electoral code.
These allow the Bosnians, who form a large demographic majority within the joint entity, to de facto elect the Croatian member to the collegial chair.
Outgoing Croatian co-president Zeljko Komsic, flag-bearer of a “civil state” seen as “illegitimate” by a large section of his community, meets Borjana Kristo, candidate of the nationalist HDZ. In the event of a victory for the first, some fear new turmoil and institutional deadlocks.
Offices close at 17:00 GMT. In the absence of exit polls, preliminary results are not expected until late at night.
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