Nationalists continue their rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina

Mon 3 Oct 2016

Nationalists continue their rule in Bosnia and Herzegovina
On 2 October Bosnia-Herzegovina held municipal elections in Serb dominated Republika Srpska (RS) and the Bosniak-Croat Federation (FBiH). The first elected 10 mayors, 57 municipal councils and six city councils. The second – 131 mayors, 74 municipal councils and four city councils. More than 20 years after the Dayton peace Agreement that ended the war in the country, nationalist parties continue to dominate the political scene. Multi-ethnic Social Democratic Party (SDP) and its split-off Democratic Front (DF) have managed to slightly increase their support, mainly in urban areas.

In RS Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD ( nationalist separatist party), got “a big, magnificent victory”, according to the leader of the party and President of the entity, Milorad Dodik. The party won in 11 more municipalities than in previous elections. Nationalist parties won many seats in mayoral and city councils races. A Serb parties’ joint candidate, Mladen Grujičić, will become the next mayor of Srebrenica. He will be the town’s first Serb leader since 1999. A convicted war criminal, Fikret Abdic, who served 10 years in prison and was released in 2012, will become a mayor from the Labour Party in the North-Western town of Velika Kladusa. The main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won in eight of nine municipalities in Sarajevo canton. The overall turnout in the local elections was 53,88%. No elections took place in the city of Mostar. Since 2012 there is no city council due to the lack of consensus on the city’s electoral statute between Bosniaks and Croats.

Preliminary Results BiH Local Elections in Major Cities
City SDP DF SDA SNSD HDZ Union for Change
Sarajevo 6,38 14,10 65,22      
Banja Luka       56,83   39,78
Zenica 3,54 1,95 30,68      
Tuzla 48,88 9,74 30,40      
Bijeljina       48,45*   49,32
Siroki Brijeg         68,04  

SDP = Social Democratic Party, left wing multi-ethnic party
DF = Democratic Front, left wing, multi-ethnic, SDP split-off
SDA = Party for Democratic Action, conservative Bosniak (muslim) party
SNSD = Alliance for Independent Social Democrats, Serb party
HDZ = Croatia Democratic Union, conservative, Croat Party
SDS = Serbian Democratic Party
Union for Change, Serb opposition party in Republika Srpska
* Independent candidate for mayor supported by SNSD

Violations and violence
In the South-Western municipality of Stolac the coalition of NGOs ‘Pod Lupom’ reported several violent incidents. A Bosniak candidate attacked a Croat, who was observing the elections, after he accused the latter of fraud. The election commission was accused of allowing people from Croatia to arrive in Stolac and vote for the ruling party using their Croatian passports. As a result, a fight broke out between the members of Croat Democratic Party (HDZ) and Alliance for Stolac. Few members of the Municipal Election Commission were injured and the voting was cancelled.

‘Pod Lupom’ registered 93 critical situations, including threats. Consequently, Central Election Commission registered 49 complaints, among others pressure to vote in a certain way or voting using IDs of other people.

Two weeks before elections some Bosnians were advertising online to sell their votes for 25 euro on olx.ba, a popular website to buy and sell goods and services. In rural areas, according to the alleged witness’s statement, some people were selling their votes for a bag of flour, 10 liters of cooking oil or 10 kilos of sugar.

International observers
OSCE ODIHR didn’t send a monitoring mission to October 2 elections but they were observed by 7000 local observers.

The only international observer was the CoE Congress of local and regional authorities mission. According to the preliminary findings, published on 3 October, “with the exception of a few violent incidents and some irregularities, polling was carried out in a calm and orderly manner, generally in line with international standards”. There remains a need to reform as regards to the quality of voters' lists, the prevention of electoral fraud and the protection of secrecy of the vote.

Sources: BalkanInsight RFERL b92 AA The Alpena News CoE

Photo: Congress of local and regional authorities