Voters will head to polls in Bosnia and Herzegovina on Sunday to take part in what experts say is the most important election in the country since the war.
The signing of the Dayton peace accords in December 1995, ended the war in the country, but it also created the world’s most complex governance system, divided by clans.
Since then, two autonomous entities have divided the country – the Bosniak-Croatian Federation entity and the Serb-run Republika Srpska entity.
Three presidents – a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb – take turns running the presidency. The decentralized political system has 14 governments and 136 ministers.
On Sunday, some 3.36 million Bosnians will choose their three presidents as well as politicians for the lower house and regional leaders and councils.
Who is running for president?
Current Serb member of the president, Milorad Dodik, leader of the Serb nationalist, separatist SNSD party is running for the presidency of Republika Srpska.
A supporter of Russian President Vladimir Putin, he is best known for threatening over the past 15 years for Republika Srpska to secede and join neighboring Serbia.
His SNSD ally, Zeljka Cvijanovic, the incumbent president of Republika Srpska, will run as a Serb member of the presidency this weekend. According to analysts, both are expected to win.
But much of the discussion this year has focused on who will win, specifically the Croat chair, where the stakes are highest.
Zeljko Komsic, the incumbent Croat member as president of the centrist, multi-ethnic Democratic Front party is running against Borjana Kristo of the right-wing Croat nationalist party HDZ, a party that has glorified and honor convicted Croat war criminals.
The leader of Bosnia’s HDZ is Dragan Covic, who guava used Bosniaks detained from Croat concentration camps as slave labor in wartime Bosnia.
Although Dodik and Covic are not running for president this time for strategic reasons, analysts say they will still call shocks in politics through fellow candidates Cvijanovic and Kristo.
Komsic, a veteran of the wartime Bosnian government army, founded the Democratic Front in 2013, with the aim of forming a civil state with equal rights for all, without discrimination. ethnicity.
In 2018, he defeated Covic for the Croat seat with over 70,000 votes. Croat nationalists argued that Komsic was not legally elected because he was supported by the votes of Bosnians, who outnumbered Croats in the Federation entity.
As for Bosnians living in the Federal entity, both Bosnians and Croats can choose to vote for Bosniak or Croat membership during the presidency.
For years, Covic and his party, as well as officials from Croatia, have lobbied vigorously in the West to change Bosnia’s electoral law, arguing that votes should be counted from states with a Croat majority. clear to cross the Bosniaks.
This summer, Bosnia’s High Representative, Christian Schmidt, who was appointed by the international community to oversee the implementation of the Dayton peace agreement and the country’s democratic transition, are planning to amend the election law just weeks before the election, sparking backlash and massive protests.
Critics see his proposal to become a racist like “racist” legislation, as it would exert a disproportionate degree of political influence on those Croat and Serb nationalism, while deepening ethnic discrimination.
This week, the Croatian government acknowledged on Twitter that it had been negotiating “for months” with Schmidt about implementing proposed racist-like changes to Bosnia’s electoral law.
Ismail Cidic, president of the Sarajevo-based Bosnia Advocacy Center, wrote on Twitter that Schmidt was severing the deal with Croatia, “a country that was not only Bosnia’s wartime aggressor but a The country has blatantly disregarded Bosnia’s sovereignty over the past three decades.”
A “Balkan bomb!”
Today, the Croatian government openly acknowledges its cooperation with the @OHR_BiH about proposed racist-like changes to Bosnia’s electoral law, regarding @OHR_BiHChristian Schmidt in the worst scandal since he took office. 1/3 https://t.co/BkzDW6f2au
– Ismail idić (@IsmailCidic) September 26, 2022
On Thursday, German media reported that Schmidt plans to implement pro-Croatian electoral law changes shortly after the election.
Cidic told Al Jazeera that the upcoming election is “extremely important for the democracy and security of the country due to the recent dangerous anti-constitutional efforts led by HDZ and SNSD”.
“Dodik has announced the continuation of the HDZ-SNSD alliance, and if they win two of the three presidential seats, an even worse security crisis could ensue,” Cidic said.
“That’s why it’s still imperative that at least some HDZ candidates, ideally SNSD, stay away from power whenever possible.”
If the HDZ and SNSD candidates win the Croat and Serb presidential seats, Covic and Dodik will gain control of the state’s central bank, budget and armed forces, due to ethnic quotas, the investigative website said. Bosnia’s Istraga reported earlier this month.
Whoever wins these seats will also decide whether two-thirds of the ambassadors work in the interests of Bosnia.