Out of the blue, Bosnia’s leaders have agreed to form a government, almost 15 months after the October 2010 general election. The country’s politicians had supposedly been on the verge of agreement for so long that most observers had lost faith they would ever be able to strike a deal. There was even talk of a new election.
The deal came on December 28th. “We did not get what we thought we should, but no one got everything they wanted,” said Milorad Dodik, president of the Republika Srpska, the Serbian-dominated half of the country. A corruption investigation into Mr Dodik was dropped on the same day the deal was struck. Vjekoslav Bevanda, a member of one of the two main Bosnian Croat parties, has been nominated for the post of prime minister.
Mr Dodik and the Republika Srpska usually get the blame for the failure of central institutions in Bosnia. But in this case the formation of the Council of Ministers was held up by bitter disputes between the main Croat parties and the technically multi-ethnic, but mostly Bosniak, Social Democratic Party, led by Zlatko Lagumdzija.
Surprise at the deal soon gave way to relief among many observers, although it could be three more months until the government starts work. But Anes Alic, a local analyst, is sceptical that it will bring much change to Bosnia:
What is left of the ruling parties’ mandate (with 15 months already lost) will be characterized by the traditional political obstruction and nationalist rhetoric which the majority of the electorate has grown to accept as par for the course.
Republika Srpksa officials will stay the course of attempting to diminish the power of state institutions, and hints of secession will continue to circulate. Bosnian Croats will continue to work towards the creation of a third entity in the country with a Bosnian Croat majority under the perception that their ethnic identity is under threat. Bosniaks will continue to fight both without any compromise.
Bosnia is in essence a federal state, so most of the everyday work of government is the preserve of its two so-called “entities” (the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation). But the lack of a central government has stymied European integration, stopped the flow of EU funds and led to a collapse in foreign investment.