It was not about “the economy, stupid.” It was not about jobs. It was not about general impoverishment. It was about identity. The three nationalist parties — Bosnian Muslim, Serb, and Croat — are the clear winners of the Bosnian local elections. Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik’s (Serbian) Alliance of Independent Social Democrats posted its best results in a decade. At a press conference after preliminary results were announced on October 3, Dodik told journalists that his policy of defending the existence of Republika Srpska (an entity of Bosnia-Herzegovina) had been his winning card, and that people recognized who would betray them and who would protect them. Just before the press conference, a journalist spotted Dodik on the phone and asked whom he was speaking with. Dodik thought for a moment and then, through a half-smile, said, “I was talking to Moscow!” It appeared to have been intended as a reminder of his preelection meeting with the Russian president, which made some people nervous.
Only a week before the elections, Dodik went through with a controversial referendum on marking a “statehood day” holiday on January 9. The Bosnian Constitutional Court had requested that the date of any such celebration be changed because that date, apart from being an Orthodox holiday, harks back to events that led up to the outbreak of war in 1992 and heralded the policy of ethnic cleansing — giving rise to a perception that the current Statehood Day excludes non-ethnic Serbian residents of Republika Srpska. But Dodik presented the dispute as a threat to Republika Srpska’s very existence, energizing his nationalist base and propelling him to a resounding victory. (The head of the leading opposition party in Republika Srpska has already announced that he is thinking of resigning.)
Dodik’s referendum meant that wartime rhetoric dominated the media during the campaign ahead of Bosnia’s local elections, entrenching nationalist feeling in Bosnia’s other entity, the Muslim-Croat Federation. Nationalists won convincingly, even though more than 100 political parties contested the elections.
Full Article: Bosnian Elections A Triumph For Nationalist Parties.