General elections were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) on 12 October 2014. Citizens elected the members of the tripartite Presidency, deputies of the House of Representatives, Presidents and legislatures of the two entities, Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH) and Republika Srpska (RS).

In the peculiar parliamentary system of Bosnia, the Presidency is the authority which has the role of Head of State. It is composed of three members: one elected by Bosniaks, one by Croats and one by Serbs. These three constituent nations represent 95% of the population of the country; the remaining part of citizens, who do not belong to any of these groups, cannot be elected at the Presidency. As Head of State, the power of the Chairman of the Presidency is usually ceremonial, but it is also responsible for foreign policies and budget proposals.

Nationalist candidates won in each contest: Izetbegović of SDA for Bosniaks, Čović of HDZ for Croats and Ivanić for Serbs. Bosniaks, who generally want a strong central government, had to choose among ten candidates.

The winner was the outgoing president Bakir Izetbegović, leader of the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and son of the first President of BiH, Alija[1]. The SDA is a centre-right party linked with Turkish President, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, who is increasing his influence on Bosnian politics, particularly in the interest of the Bosniak-Muslim community. Fahrudin Radončić arrived in second position. He is the leader of the Union for a Better Future of BiH (SBB), a party founded five years ago as a new political subject in a space occupied by parties founded in 1990s. Radončić is a businessman and owner of “Dnevni Avaz”, a newspaper that widely supported the demonstrations at the beginning of the year. Emir Suljagić, of the Democratic Front (DF), was in the third place. Although the DF left the Social Democratic Party (SDP) in 2013, it shares the aim to be a multi-ethnic party. Suljagić ruled the Prvi Mart association, which defends the interests and rights of Bosniaks returned in RS. In fourth place was the candidate of the Social Democratic Party of BiH (SDP) Bakir Hadžiomerović, a well-known journalist. SDP ruled for four years with SDA. They won the 2010 election, but they are now slowly losing support because of the despotic rule of its leader, Zlatko Lagumdžija, which led to the split of the DF in 2013. In sixth place came the former Grand Mufti Mustafa Cerić accused, by a part of the Bosniak community, of leveling the national culture at the Muslim religion. He proposed himself as an independent in order to depoliticize the Presidency. Political analysts supposed that his candidature, due to the unfairness of his political program, had been proposed in order to take away votes from the SDA, thus facilitating the winning of Radončić.

The central government is responsible for security, defense, customs, immigration, fiscal and monetary policies and regulation and coordination of inter-entity subjects. Entities are very autonomous. Their competences involve healthcare, education, agriculture, culture, veteran issues, labor, police and internal affairs[2].

Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of the poorest States in Europe: the youth unemployment rate is 63% and the employment rate is under 40%. Although some demonstrations have started in Tuzla since last February, Bosnians continue to face problems which affect their lives. Unemployment, poverty, bad working conditions and factory closures, corruption and other damages caused by the floods in May are all obstacles yet to be resolved. Nevertheless, these issues were not analyzed during the last electoral campaign which was again based on nationalist and ethnic elements.

The complicated system of government, based on the Dayton Agreement, has often been delayed and the result has been a slow legislation process. Indeed, in the past four years, only 106 laws have been approved, which is less than half of those approved by Montenegro and less than one-third of those approved by Serbia. The political context was fragmented: 65 parties, 24 coalitions and 24 independent candidates were eligible to compete in the elections; more than 8.000 candidates in total.

Even though the EU proposed, in 2013, a group of political reforms to align the institutional system with the Sejdić-Finci verdict of the European Court of Human Rights, the Government and the Parliament were not able to realize them[3]. Consequently, people not belonging to the three constituent nations (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) were not eligible candidates. The turnout was 54.14% of 3.3 million voters which are a few points lower than the last election in 2010, but in line with the other countries of Western Balkans.

The Serbian vote was seen as a referendum over Dodik’s rule. Ultimately, the race was between Željka Cvijanović, PM of the RS government, and Mladen Ivanić, the candidate of the opposition, together under the name “Union for changes”. This coalition is composed of the centre-right Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) and the right wing Serb Democratic Party (SDS) founded by Radovan Karadžić, charged of war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Ivanić won with 48.71%, strictly ahead of Cvijanović, who obtained 47.56%[4].

The neck-to-neck race between SDS and SNSD (Alliance of Independent Social Democrats), at all administrative levels, and the accusation against Dodik by SDS of privately ruling RS[5] which shut down the separatist talks, pushed analysts to believe that an SDS winner could improve the relation inside BiH.

Among the Croats, the winning candidate of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ), the speaker of the House of People (upper house in BiH) Dragan Čović, was widely expected. The second position was won by Martin Raguž, leader of HDZ 1990, a more obliging party. He was followed by Živko Budimir, the outgoing president of FBiH who left the HDZ in 2013. The last place went to Anto Popović, proposed by DF, who suffered of the widespread feeling of unhappiness of Croats. The Croats are the smallest ethnic group and they often feel themselves in inferior position inside FBiH. Diffused among the Croat community and supported also by Dodik, the main political idea in this context was the establishment in Herzegovina of a Croat’s entity, next to RS and FBiH.

 

ELECTION OF THE TRIPARTITE PRESIDENCY

BOSNIAK MEMBER

CROAT MEMBER

SERB MEMBER

Candidate

Party

% of votes

Candidate

Party

% of votes

Candidate

Party

% of votes

B. Izetbegović

SDA

32.87

D. Čović

HDZ

52.20

M. Ivanić

PDP-SDS

48.71

F. Radončić

SBB

26.78

M. Raguž

HDZ 1990

38.61

Z. Cvijanović

SNSD-DNS-SP

47.56

E. Suljagić

DF

15.20

Z. Budimir

SPP

6.27

     

 

Together with the election of the President, Bosnians also voted for the lower house of the Parliament: the House of Representatives. RS elected 14 lawmakers, while FBiH elected 28. Serbs also directly elected the President of RS and the National Assembly (83 members), the unicameral parliament which elects a PM. Croats and Bosnians voted for their own House of Representatives of FBiH (98 members) and 10 cantons’ assemblies. The cantons’ councilors elect the upper house of FBiH, the House of People, which is composed of 17 representatives of each constituent nation and 7 of other minorities. The bicameral parliament of FBiH elects a president and a PM. The House of People of FBiH and a special commission of the National Assembly of RS elects the House of People of BiH, the upper house of the Parliament of Bosnia and Herzegovina, composed of 5 members for each constituent nation.

The election of the president of RS was contested by Milorad Dodik and Ognjen Tadić. Dodik is the outgoing president and he is the leader of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD); Tadić is a former speaker of the House of People of BiH and leader of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). SDS ruled RS until 2006 when it was defeated by the SNSD. Dodik won the contest with 45.22% of the vote, while Tadić obtained 44.19% of the vote.

It is unusual that the winner of the Serb Presidency of BiH (Ivanić – SDS) is different from the winner of the presidential election of RS (Dodik – SNSD).

 

ELECTION OF THE PRESIDENT OF REPUBLIKA SRPSKA

Candidate

Party

% of votes

M. Dodik

SNSD

45.22

O. Tadić

SDS

44.19

 

Dodik, PM in 2002 under a SDS presidency and then president, ruled RS by centralizing the power in Banja Luka, deleting the administrative role of regions, and improving his influence and support by controlling two local newspapers and the local broadcaster.

When SNSD was founded, it was supported by Western countries as a real opposition to SDS rule. After years of government, Dodik developed good relations with Vladimir Putin[6] and his policy became more nationalist. In every electoral campaign, he proposes a referendum on the independence of the Republika Srpska, initially focusing on the Kosovo’s self-declaration of independence in 2008 and now proposing the Crimean model.

Following this objective, it is possible to understand his support to the creation of a Croat entity which can weaken the central State by giving more autonomy to RS. Tadić modified the political ideas of SDS in order to compete against Dodik; SDS became more obliging with non-Serb parties.

During the last few years, relations between Belgrade and Banja Luka became worse. Serbia is approaching the EU and the foreign policy is even more pro-Europeanist, in line with all the other parliamentary parties in Belgrade. The Democratic Party was weakened by the split of the former president of the Republic, Boris Tadić. In the election of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska, the outgoing government obtained 42 seats out of 83 in total[7]. The SNSD gained 29, Democratic People’s Alliance 8 and Socialist Party 5.

The Democratic People’s Alliance is a social-conservative party while the Socialist Party is the historical opponent of Karadžić and it is linked with the SPS of Ivica Dačić in Belgrade. The coalition led by SDS gained 24 seats; it is composed of SDS, Party of United Pensioners, who is linked with the Serbian PUPS, and Serb Radical Party, who is linked with the Serbian SPS of PM, Aleksandar Vučić. The Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), the only one affiliated to the EPP, supported Ivanić at the Presidency of BiH but, with its 7 lawmakers, it will probably not become part of the coalition of the government. The National Democratic Party (NDP) raced alone and obtained 5 seats. At the national level, it participated to a joint list with PDP and will probably not be appointed to the next Serb cabinet.

Domovina has also become an important subject. The coalition of non-Serb parties founded by the leader of DF, Suljagić, was able to go over 3% threshold obtaining 5 lawmakers. Since the outgoing government led by Cvijanović has a majority of only 1 deputy[8], Domovina can probably be appointed to cabinet, affecting the radical nationalism and the anti-BiH feelings in Banja Luka.

 

ELECTION OF THE NATIONAL ASSEMBLY OF RS

Party

Seats

SNSD

29

SDS

24

DNS

8

PDP

7

Domovina

5

NDP

5

SP

5

 

The new House of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will be dominated by SDA, with its 29 lawmakers. SDA is a party well radicalized in the countryside and has its members in all levels of administration, while the other parties are strongly present on mass media and in the cities. SBB gained 16 lawmakers while DF 14, making impossible the alliance between these two parties that many analysts supposed before the election, for the purpose of confining SDA and SDP to the opposition. Their result is seen as a fact that the support of these parties is related to leaders and not to political ideas. Other seats were assigned in this way: 13 to HDZ, 11 to SDP, 4 each to HDZ 1990 and the Patriotic Bosnian Party a right-wing party based on the multi-ethnicity and strong centralism. 3 seats were won by the Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina, a Bosnian liberal party; 2 seats were obtained by A-SDA, a Bosnian centralist party, while Labourists and social-liberal multi-ethnic Our Party (NS) obtained a lawmaker each.

 

ELECTION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF FBiH

Party

Seats

SDA

29

SBB

16

DF

14

HDZ

13

SDP

11

HDZ 1990

4

BiH Patriotic Party

4

Party of Bosnia and Herzegovina

3

A-SDA

2

Labourists

1

NS

1

 

In the election of Cantons’ councils, SDA obtained the majority in six of 10 Cantons, lost by SDP. Councilors will elect the members of the House of People of FBiH and these lawmakers will elect the Croat and Bosnian members of the national House of People.

In the election for the House of Representatives of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the lower national house, SDA obtained the highest number of seats (10) and will lead the dialogue with other parties to build a coalition[9]. SNSD obtained six lawmakers and as ruling party in RS will probably enter in the next national government. DF and SDS obtained five seats each, while SBB and HDZ got four seats each; HDZ, as main Croat party, will probably become part of the next cabinet. SDP lost more than half of its support, obtaining only three seats (instead of the 8 won in 2010), while a deputy has been assigned to HDZ 1990, BiH Patriotic Party, A-SDA, joint list PDP-NDP and DNS.

 

ELECTION OF THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES OF BiH

Party

Seats

SDA

10

SNSD

6

DF

5

SDS

5

SBB

4

HDZ

4

SDP

3

HDZ 1990

1

BiH Patriotic Party

1

A-SDA

1

PDP-NDP

1

DNS

1

 

Generally these elections confirmed, more or less, the support for nationalist parties (SDA, HDZ and SNSD). Multi-ethnic parties gained significant votes only in FBiH, particularly DF and SBB, which took the electorate from the SDP. In RS the only multi-ethnic list, Domovina, was able to go over the threshold.

Now the international community is waiting for the formation of the national governments although SDA and HDZ have agreed on a government deal[10]. Everyone remembers the crisis that followed the 2010 election and the need of 16 months to create a national government. SNSD, which will not rule in RS with its main rival SDS, has opened possibilities of a joint rule in a wider alliance at national level.

 

NICOLÒ BONDIOLI

Bachelor’s degree in European Policy and Integration (University of Padua)

 

 


[1] M.E. Marino, Bosnia al voto: il cambiamento che non c’è, “Rivista Europae”, October 15, 2014 – http://www.rivistaeuropae.eu/politica/bosnia-al-voto-il-cambiamento-che-non-ce/.

[2] A. Nardelli, D. Dzidic, E. Jukic, Bosnia and Herzegovina: the world’s most complicated system of government?, “The Guardian”, October 8, 2014 – http://www.theguardian.com/news/datablog/2014/oct/08/bosnia-herzegovina-elections-the-worlds-most-complicated-system-of-government.

[3] A. De Noni, Tre poltrone per tre, “Osservatorio Balcani e Caucaso”, July 23, 2014 – http://www.balcanicaucaso.org/aree/Bosnia-Erzegovina/Tre-poltrone-per-tre-154475.

[4] Anon., B&H elections: opposition Serb candidate leading Bosnian presidency vote, “Sarajevo Times”, October 14, 2014 – http://www.sarajevotimes.com/bh-elections-opposition-serb-candidate-leading-bosnian-presidency-vote/.

[5] N. Dervišbegović, Bosnians to choose new government, but change unlikely, “Sarajevo Times”, October 11, 2014 – http://www.sarajevotimes.com/bosnians-choose-new-government-change-unlikely/.

[6] D. Denti, Bosnia: cosacchi a Banja Luka, Sarajevo in fibrillazione. Sono solo figuranti?, “East Journal”, October 4, 2014 – http://www.eastjournal.net/bosnia-cosacchi-a-banja-luka-sarajevo-in-fibrillazione-sono-solo-figuranti/48339.

[7] Anon., SNSD party wins majority in election for RS national assembly, “Sarajevo Times”, October 15, 2014 – http://www.sarajevotimes.com/snsd-party-wins-majority-election-rs-national-assembly/.

[8] E.M. Jukic, Bosnian Serb rivals bid for coalition partners, “Balkan Insight”, October 16, 2014 – http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/smaller-coalition-partner-to-decide-over-govt-in-republika-srpska.

[9] E.M. Jukic, Bosniak party mulls options after Bosnia election win, “Balkan Insight”, October 15, 2014 – http://www.balkaninsight.com/en/article/parties-mull-their-options-after-bosnia-elections.

[10] Anon., Bosnia’s new leadership takes shape, faces pressure to reform, “World Bulletin”, November 18, 2014 – http://www.worldbulletin.net/news/148613/bosnias-new-leadership-takes-shape-faces-pressure-to-reform.