Day: November 6, 2010

Bosnia votes for unity and division

I’ll be speaking twice this week about Bosnia, once this afternoon via Skype to the conference in Dayton commemorating the 15th anniversary of the accords that ended the war but have failed to build the peace. Then at Johns Hopkins with Mike Haltzel, Kemal Kurspahic and Vedran Dzihic (2:30 pm Nov 10 in room 500 at 1717 MA, see

What is there to say about the October 3 election results?  There was a big vote (participation up from 55% in 2006 to 57% this time, 274,000 more people voted), most of which went to leaders and parties who favor a more united Bosnia:  Social Democrat Zlatko Lagumdzija and moderate nationalist Bakir Izetbegovic among the Bosniaks (“Muslims” to the American press), with provocative nationalist Haris Silajdzic the big loser.

But in Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-dominated 49% of the country, Milorad Dodik’s increasingly nationalist party won the presidency (as well as the Serb seat in the state presidency in Sarajevo, by a small margin) and lost only four seats in the RS parliament. Dodik has made no secret of his desire to divide Bosnia by making the RS independent.

This puts Zlatko in the driver’s seat, with Milorad riding the brake.  Since Dodik wants to prove that the Sarajevo government is dysfunctional and useless, all he has to do is spoil.  Lagumdzija needs to fill his tank to the majority (23) with a motley assemblage of Bosniak, Croat and Serb parties.

And he has to somehow get that assemblage to agree on a serious program of constitutional reform, including elimination of discriminatory provisions denounced by the European Court of Human Rights and adoption of a strong “EU clause” that gives the Sarajevo government all the authority it needs to negotiate NATO and EU membership.

This is going to require strong support from the EU and the US, which need to worry what happens if Dodik succeeds in spoiling formation of the Sarajevo government.  Especially troubling is the EU’s penchant for traipsing off to Banja Luka, the RS capital, to see Dodik.  If the Commission starts a de facto negotiation of EU accession with Dodik, Bosnia will come apart, and it isn’t likely to be peaceful.

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