Consolidation of Milorad Dodik’s SNSD in Republika Srpska, Bosniak SDA remaining in power and Željko Komšić’s ousting of the incumbent Croatian member of the Presidency are the main takeaways of general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina that took place on October 7.
“Governments in BiH are generally not formed along ideological or some other similarities, but rather simply by the most successful national parties, with only important thing being a formal 50%+1 majority”, reminds NIN. The implications of this fact are that a coalition between SDA and SNSD is again expected, European Western Balkans writes.
The dynamics within the new Presidency will doubtless be more interesting, as well as more potentially destabilising. The most pressing issue is the connection between Dodik and Russia, which was apparent during the campaign itself, when he met with Vladimir Putin in Sochi and when Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov visited Republika Srpska.
Even though there is a fear that Dodik might push for change of Bosnia’s borders and independence of RS, an escalation is not in Russia’s interest, stated Dimitar Bechev, a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council, for Foreign Policy magazine. The Eurasian power is already heavily involved in Syrian and Ukrainian conflicts, and therefore prefers the status quo, Bechev emphasised.
Nobody, it seems, has their hopes high for the working relationship of the Presidency members. Dodik has already vowed not to enter the institution’s building in Sarajevo as long as there is no flag of Republika Srpska in front of it. Professor at John Hopkins University in Washington Daniel Serwer expressed his reservations about the cooperation between Dodik, Džaferović and Komšić. “All in all, it is not a promising situation”, said Serwer, hoping that the three men will prove him wrong.
However, as Radio Free Europe reminds, the previous Presidency, consisting of Ivanić, Čović and Bakir Izetbegović, president of SDA, also found it extremely hard to reach a consensus on almost anything. Since Džaferović will certainly continue his predecessor’s and party leader’s policy, the business-as-usual model seems very likely, providing that Dodik cools down his campaign rhetoric.
Euro-Atlantic integrations of Bosnia and Herzegovina also seem to be where they were before the elections. As long as the Serb population opposes NATO membership, which has been one of Dodik’s more consistent policies (he is, after all, currently under US sanctions), there will be no deeper cooperation with the Alliance.
As for EU membership, joint statement by Mogherini and Hahn reminded that BiH made a strategic decision when it submitted its application in February 2016. “This new mandate can be an opportunity for political leaders to demonstrate, both to their citizens and to the EU, a renewed commitment and determination to take forward all the reforms needed to advance on the EU path”, the statement reads.
Nevertheless, the necessary reforms have so far been slow and incomplete. One of the most cited examples for the lack of proper functioning of institutions was an extremely long period of time required for answering a Questionnaire by European Commission, a task every potential candidate country needs to fulfil. Since the winners of these elections were almost exclusively status quo parties, it is currently hard to imagine a more swift and efficient progress.