Thursday, December 8

Bosnia holds elections amid political paralysis and abysmal nationalist discord

bosnian hold elections this Sunday. The backdrop is concern about the possible outbreak of another conflict in a country bordering the European Union (EU) and already martyred by a bloody war in the 1990s. The situation is particularly tangled. Threats of secession from Orthodox Serbs, a minority Croatian Catholic who disapproves of continuing on the path of cohabitation with the Bosniaks (the Bosnian Muslims), and a population disenchanted and exhausted by misrulefuel the danger of destabilizing this poor Balkan country and structured around a devilish system of collective and tripartite head of stateone for each recognized ethnic-linguistic group (precisely: Serbs, Croats and Bosniaks).

“The state today in Bosnia is completely paralyzed. Parliament has been out of business for months since the Serbian representatives stopped coming to work in retaliation to the decision of the UN high international representative for Bosnia Herzegovina (Christian Schmidt) to hinder the process of secession of the Bosnian Serb entity”, Denis Dzidic, director of the BIRN Bosnia media outlet, explains to this newspaper. The problem is that “the political elites of the three groups cannot and do not want a serious debate on the future of the country,” adds analyst Adnan Huskić, from the Friedrich Naumann Foundation.

On the home front, the failure of the proposal to reform the current electoral law bosnia, a longing that the croat bosnians had and that was torpedoed by the muslim bosniaks, have further strained an electoral campaign dominated by the resignation of the population. In fact, the main dispute between the parties is due to their opposing vision of what their country should be like. Serbs and Croats, who are decreasing in numbers, are calling for greater autonomy, while the Bosniaks are calling for a centralizing state.

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Aftermath of the war in Ukraine

The lack of a real possibility of joining the EU in short times and, this year, the war in Ukraine, have deepened the divide. The representatives of each ethnic-linguistic group have clashed over endless issues, but the debate on the Russian-Ukrainian conflict has been particularly incendiary. The main Bosnian Serb leader, Milorad Dodik, has been a strong supporter of Vladimir Putin, the Russian president. He has done it even these days. “Russia’s special operation is justified by the need to protect its people,” he said last week in an interview with the Russian agency Tass. “It is the worst political crisis that the country has experienced since the war“, Analysts have summed up months ago.

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All this with the addition of the repercussions of the energy crisis and high inflation that is also suffered in Bosnia, where one of the main desires of a large part of the young people is to leave. So much so that in 2021 alone, according to figures from Bosnian NGOs taken up by the French agency AFP, some 170,000 people left this country currently inhabited by just over 3 million citizens.

The future does not look hopeful, according to many experts. “I doubt a war like the one in the 1990s will break out, but incidents cannot be ruled out. And the crisis will hardly be resolved because, after the elections, the political actors will be the same”, insists Dzidic. In this context, “what is most worrying is that the European bloc, so indispensable to us, does not maintain its influence in the region,” concludes Huskić.

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