On a tree-lined riverbank in the Sarajevo district of Grbavica, Rabina Baltić pauses at her stall selling tubs of sweetcorn, and gestures in disgust. “Future?” she asks. “There’s no future here! I have a university degree, but look how I work … We’ve lost hope. Every election it’s all mixed, religion and politics.” Twenty-three years after the end of its internecine war that left 100,000 dead, Bosnia-Herzegovina votes on Sunday to elect a bewildering number of national and sub-national presidencies, parliaments, and assemblies. Ethnic-nationalist parties representing the three main communities – Bosniak (Muslim), Serb, and Croat – are expected to top the polls as they have at most previous elections since the current political system was set up by the Dayton peace agreement in 1995. Hope that change will come to one of Europe’s poorest countries is dwindling. The average monthly wage is just over €400 (£355), while unemployment stands at more than 20%, rising to over 45% among young people. The grim economic situation is a major factor driving emigration from the country.
But political frustrations are just as significant. People strolling the streets of Grbavica, a middle-class suburb once on the wartime frontline, express helplessness and bemoan the failure of Bosnia’s leftwing and multi-ethnic parties. The leading parties are accused of stoking tensions, while stuffing state-owned companies and the public administration with their supporters.
Adil Osmanović, minister of civil affairs and a member the Bosniak nationalist Party of Democratic Action (SDA), which leads the government and tops the polls among Bosniaks, argues that the government has raised economic growth, created nearly 21,500 new jobs in the past year, and made progress in preparing the way for an application for EU membership.