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Bosnian Elections See Moderate Gains, but Little Hope for Change

More than 8,000 candidates from 39 political parties and 11 coalitions competed for seats in Bosnia-Herzegovina’s central parliament and tripartite presidency during 3 October elections. The Bosnian Croat and Bosniak seats look set to go to supporters of a unified Bosnia, while the Bosnian Serb representative is vowing more strength for entities – a situation that has created deadlock in the work of the presidency over the past four years. The moderate Social Democrat Party’s (SDP) Zeljko Komsic won the presidency's Croat seat, beating ethno-nationalist Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) candidate Borjana Kristo. The Bosniak front-runner was Bakir Izetbegovic, of the predominantly ethno-nationalist Bosniak Party for Democratic Action (SDA). Komsic’s victory was disputed by Croat nationalists who said he earned it thanks to Bosniak, not Croat voters, and vowed to press for an early election in two years. In the lead for Bosnian Serb post was the incumbent Nebojsa Radmanovic, of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), the party which during the election campaign raised the possibility of seceding from the country. While Komsic and Radmanovic hold on to their presidential seats, Izetbegovic will replace Haris Silajdzic, who came in third, and whose Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH), burdened with several corruption affairs, failed in the 3 October poll. Even though Izetbegovic is seen as more moderate than Silajdzic, it is hard to expect any major progress. Preliminary results for the central parliament are showing that the only change from the last elections in 2006 will happen in the areas where Bosniaks are the majority, gaining mostly at the expense of Bosniak ethno-nationalist parties. Most of the SBiH and SDA votes were taken by the newly founded Party for Better Future (SBB), led by media mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, who came up as the main surprise of the elections. With some 70% of votes counted, SDP is slightly ahead of SDA. But in the areas where Bosnian Serbs and Bosnian Croats are the majority, the elections were swept by Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik’s SNSD and HDZ. SNSD’s leader Milorad Dodik, who is leading in the presidential elections in Republika Srpska, and whose party won most of the Bosnian Serb votes on all levels.

Analytical Note: According to the results, the deep ethnic divisions will be maintained and offer no solution to the ongoing political stalemate. There is also little hope that the election results will introduce new leaders that could launch badly needed political reforms set by the EU. Most of the same political personalities and parties were voted into power. Aside from an increase of votes for the moderate party among the Bosniak voters, ethno-nationalists remain popular in the Bosnian Serb-dominated Republika Srpska entity and areas dominated by Bosnian Croats. Given the differences among the sides, it is hard to expect any progressive cooperation on the state level. The results of the elections could actually further entrench ethnic divisions as many candidates have put ethno-nationalist slogans at the heart of their electoral campaigns, which voters recognized and supported. Even though Bosniak voters recognized the need for change and voted for the SDP, which doubled its performance compared with the 2006 elections, overall, this is not as significant as it may appear, since the party will have to ally with other parties, which very well may not share their moderate views.


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