The president of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic has accused the U.S. Embassy in Sarajevo of using its development agency to interfere in the Balkan country’s election process, a charge dismissed by the embassy as a “wild” conspiracy theory. Milorad Dodik said the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) was implementing its aid program through non-government organizations to conceal what he said was its real agenda of countering Russian influence in the region. “Aiming to directly interfere in internal affairs of the Republika Srpska and Bosnia, USAID … tries to avoid all institutions and to grant funds under cover of the alleged fight against crime and corruption,” Dodik said.
Articles about voting issues in Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Preparations for general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, scheduled for October 7, have entered their final phase after all the political parties finalized the process of submitting their full candidates’ lists to the Central Election Commission, CIK. Although the eighth post-war general election comes in the middle of the country’s worst crisis since the 1992-5 war – and may not even lead to the establishment of new governments on all levels due to the broken election law [link to past reports] – the competition among local political rivals is fierce as ever. The CIK has meanwhile confirmed that 67 parties and 34 independent candidates have been certified to participate in the elections, in which 3.3 million verified voters in the country and abroad will be voting for new institutions at state, entity, cantonal and district levels.
Lawmakers in the House of Peoples of Bosnia’s state-level parliament are to vote on Wednesday on legal changes approving the use video surveillance and scanners during polling. “We want voters to decide on the results of the election, and not those who count the votes,” Sasa Magazinovic, a member of parliament from the Social Democratic Party, SDP, told BIRN. Parliament’s other chamber, the House of Representatives, adopted the amendments to the country’s electoral law at the beginning of this month. Bosnia is not believed to have major problems with electoral fraud, although some irregularities were noted at the local polls in 2016.
A coalition of four Srebrenica victims’ associations, including the Mothers of Srebrenica, has filed a criminal complaint against all seven members of Bosnia’s Central Election Commission, alleging violations of electoral law during the recent municipal polls. They accuse the commission of failing to tackle what they claim was hate speech by the Serb candidate for mayor of Srebrenica, of breaking rules on updating voter lists, and of violating election law by excluding 2,000 absentee ballots from election results. They filed the complaint after Serb candidate Mladen Grujicic was officially named victor on Monday, making him Srebrenica’s first Serb mayor since the 1995 massacres of more than 7,000 Bosniak men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces. Grujicic received 4,678 votes, while Bosniak mayoral candidate Camil Durakovic got 3,910. The victims’ associations – the Mothers of Srebrenica, Women of Srebrenica, Women of Podrinje, and the Mothers of Srebrenica and Zepa – believe that the alleged violations could have affected the result in the Serb candidate’s favour.
As a vote recount for the disputed mayoralty of Srebrenica began on Monday in Sarajevo, the Bosniak-led Party of Democratic Action, SDA called for a complete annulment of the local polls in the wartime flashpoint town. According to the SDA, which is led by the Bosniak member of the country’s tripartite presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, the legality of the vote was violated when police special forces from Republika Srpska entered the municipality election commission’s headquarters last Tuesday. “Members of the SDA are seeking to nullify the elections in Srebrenica, because [the RS Ministy of Security’s intervention] grossly undermined the integrity of the electoral process,” said the SDA in a statement. According to the statement, the interference constituted a violation of Bosnia’s electoral code, which stipulates that the Municipal Election Commission is responsible for collecting and processing results.
Police interrupted election tellers in the Bosnian town of Srebrenica, site of the 1995 genocide of 8,000 Muslims, just as they were about to recount ballots in a tense vote which may bring the town its first Serb mayor since the war. Srebrenica became a symbol of Bosniak suffering in the 1992-95 Bosnian war when Bosnian Serb forces surrounded the town, a U.N-protected enclave, and killed its Muslim men and boys. In Sunday’s local election, 70 percent of votes cast locally went to a Bosnian Serb, Mladen Grujicic, causing uproar in a town that is still deeply scarred by the massacre, Europe’s worst atrocity since World War Two. Grujicic, like many other Serbs, denies that the massacre amounted to a genocide as the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has ruled.
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.
Preliminary results early Monday morning show that nationalist parties, including one that wants to break away from Bosnia, easily won local elections held in Bosnia. Voters were picking mayors and municipal councils in both of Bosnia’s two semi-autonomous regions. Those areas — the Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation — each have their own governments, presidents and parliaments, but are linked by shared federal-level institutions. Election officials said slightly more than half of the approximately 3.2 million eligible voters cast ballots Sunday, and in the Bosniak-Croat Federation, the respective nationalist parties almost completely defeated their non-nationalist rivals.
Bosnian Serbs on Sunday voted in a referendum banned by the country’s constitutional court, risking Western sanctions against their autonomous region and criminal charges against their leaders. The vote was whether to keep Jan. 9 as a holiday in Republika Srpska, commemorating the day in 1992 that Bosnian Serbs declared the creation of their own state, igniting the ruinous 1992-95 war. It comes despite the top court’s ruling that the date, which falls on a Serb Christian Orthodox religious holiday, discriminates against Muslim Bosniaks and Catholic Croats in Bosnia. Authorities said turnout was between 56 and 60 percent. Preliminary results after 30.76 percent of the ballots were counted say 99.8 percent of the voters were in favor of the holiday. The vote has raised tensions and fears of renewed fighting as Bosniaks and Croats see the referendum as an attempt to elevate the Serb region above the country’s constitutional court. It is also a test for a more serious referendum that Bosnian Serb leaders have announced for 2018 — one on independence from Bosnia.
It is easy to write off Bosnia as a dysfunctional country hobbled by unnecessary layers of government in which nothing works. In fact, despite an unduly complex system of government that was the price of ending the war in 1995, Bosnia works—but badly. The elections held on October 12th will probably not alter that. Yet to dismiss them as just one more round of political musical chairs would be wrong. Some change may now be in the air. The war left Bosnia divided between the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation, which is dominated by Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) and Croats. The Federation is divided into ten cantons. In February it was rocked by rioters demonstrating against their parasitic politicians. In May much of the country was engulfed by floods that caused terrible damage. Bosnia’s infrastructure is run down partly because so much money has been stolen but also because it has to pay for too many levels of government.