February 2014 proved to be a turning point post-Dayton Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH). Massive protests spread throughout the country resulting in mass violence and the formation of citizens’ assemblies called plenums. One crucial demand the plenums had all over the country was the establishment of an expert government, which would feature non-partisan, expert and incorruptible officials who would meet the demands of the people. The image of the protests was quite heterogeneous, with disenfranchised workers, students, and unemployed coming together in the streets of Bosnia and Herzegovina demanding a better life and a brighter future for everyone. The protests resulted in a new political subjectivity, which in turn created a space without restriction and the terror of everyday life. This new subjectivity among other things brought out the distrust people felt towards the political elite of the country.
On October 12, this year Bosnia and Herzegovina will have its 7th general elections since the signing of the Dayton Peace Accords in 1995. These elections come in the aftermath of the largest social unrest the country has seen since the end of the war. A popular question the media kept asking in the last two months was what had changed after the protest. Will something be different after these elections? Of course, one would immediately be inclined to answer with a cynical no, but before one does, we should first look at some statistics concerning past and current elections. During the general elections in 2010, in the mainly Bosniak and Croat-populated Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, only 56,8% of the electorate cast their votes, and a similar percentage, 56,2% voted in BiH’s other entity, the Serb Republic. According to an opinion poll conducted by GfK BiH (Agency for Market and Public Opinion Research), the number is set to increase by 12% (with a total of 68,6% for both the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the Serb Republic) in the upcoming elections.
And yet today the position of the political elites seems unchanged as we witness an omnipresence of political figures plastering the streets of Bosnia and Herzegovina, all attempting to maintain the ethno-nationalist imaginary of politics within the status quo. This was especially visible during the last few weeks in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, with the death on September 25 of Sulejman Tihić, a prominent member of the SDA (the Party of Democratic Action, the main Bosniak political party) and one of the country’s former Presidents, replaced in 2010 by Bakir Izetbegović.. Ever since, Tihić has been praised by all sides, even by Milorad Dodik, the current president of Republika Srpska, as the best politician the SDA had to offer.
In the Serb Republic, the situation is somewhat similar, with the main difference being that Milorad Dodik, the current president, seems to be pushing the nationalist mobilization effort much further. Again under the rhetoric of secession, he has emphasized the importance of Serb unity, the latest example being the naming of a student dorm in Pale after war criminal Radovan Karadžić. This appears to be a far cry from Dodik’s stance a few years ago when he declared on Serbian national television that “now an entire people are suffering, not only in the Serb Republic, but also in Serbia, because Mladić refused to give himself up…”. As Dodik is trying to cement his position as the ‘new and old leader of the Serbs’, the other members of the Bosnian-Herzegovinian political oligarchy remain loyal to the market paradigm.