The two main pieces of news from the elections held yesterday in Bosnia and Herzegovina are the victory of Denis Becirovic and changes to the Election law imposed by High representative Christian Schmidt. Everything else, according to what we know, is the same as before, but it is certain that these two changes, supplemented by the fact that Zeljka Cvijanovic will replace Milorad Dodik in the Presidency, will significantly relax the situation in the country.
The saddest thing from the entire campaign is that there was no serious debate on class and social issues, not even from the nominal left and not even in the midst of rising poverty due to the crisis. Even more paradoxically, all three newly elected members of the Presidency claim to be social democrats. It would seem that the situation is ripe, more than ever before, for the government to start dealing with leftist issues and the real lives of citizens. If this miracle were to actually happen, it would be a Copernican twist in B&H political life. Indications that the course may be changing were evident in Denis Becirovic’s victory speech, who spoke about social issues at the very beginning. Now, it remains to be seen whether these intentions can be turned into reality and these topics forced into relevance.
In other news, Bakir Izetbegovic suffered a severe defeat, while his party did fairly well. Obviously, SDA now has to seriously reconsider whether they still want a leader who has been so resoundingly rejected by the electorate. It is clearly unrealistic to expect him to face that fact, which he already showed at the press conference, where he admitted his defeat by finding excuses for it.
Milorad Dodik did pretty well in the end. He managed to keep real political power by being elected president of Republika Srpska, which showed his dominance over Aleksandar Vucic on the home turf, and also that his relationship with Zoran Milanovic and visit to Vladimir Putin didn’t hurt him at all.
Dragan Covic and HDZ can also be considered among the winners, regardless of the expected, but significantly less prominent victory of Zeljko Komsic in the race for the Presidency. Together with other parties gathered in HNS, HDZ received plebiscite support among Croats, while Christian Schmidt’s decision to increase the number of representatives at the House of Commons from 17 to 23 and to raise the bar for legal changes to a minimum of 11 definitely secured their position. Besides this, Schmidt also passed regulations which make it impossible to block establishment of the government in the Federation, but also said that the House of Commons should clearly define jurisdictions, which basically constitutes a compromise and enables everyone to move forward.
In the end, the situation we face is this: there is evident pluralism in the Bosniak electorate, although it was barely visible in the ideological sense. Pluralism is a bit less pronounced, but also exists among Serbian voters, although not ideological at all. It doesn’t exist among Croatian voters, primarily due to the so-called unresolved Croatian issue.
Nonetheless, this election gave Denis Becirovic a historic opportunity to integrate B&H society based on leftist foundations. The same opportunity Zeljko Komsic spectacularly fumbled by bringing interethnic relations in the Federation and the state to the lowest level, which is exactly why SDP can’t afford to miss this chance. However, if their recent behavior is any indication, this is exactly what is going to happen. But if anyone is able to expand the leftist voter base, it is precisely social democrats. The only difference is that they can only make this happen by looking outside of Sarajevo and Tuzla, for once.
In the end, regardless of the small turnout and mostly expected results, the elections, together with imposed changes to the Election law, made it possible for the society to step forward and relax a bit when it comes international relations. The situation, at least, shouldn’t deteriorate, and in B&H, that’s a pretty big deal.
Translated by Marijana Simic