Results of general elections held on Sunday 10.12.2014 in Bosnia and Herzegovina, in which were chosen members of Presidency, President of Republika Srpska and members of legislative bodies on state, entity and canton levels, are still being waited for. Although all kinds of flags, followed by horns, passed through streets of Sarajevo, Mostar and Banja Luka celebrating victory, Bosnia and Herzegovina is far from having election winners.
BOSNIAN ELECTION DRAMA
SDA – Stranka demokratske akcije Party of Democratic Action
Since the first democratic elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (1992), SDA was an unavoidable political factor, that even after war managed to keep major influence in bosnian political circles. Started by Alija Izetbegovic, who has run the country during the war 1992-1995, today is leaded by his son, Bakir, who is running for his second mandate in Presidency, and also for confirmation in inside party battles. SDA is a member of a European Peoples Party (EPP)
SDP – Socialdemokratska partija Social Democratic Party
SDP is politicaly and legaly considered for a successor of Communist Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Head of the party is Zlatko Lagumdzija, who was Minister of Foreign Affairs in his last mandate. SDP’s political acting is considered nominaly left oriented. Social democrats managed to take charge in BIH Federation entity in 2000., under the wider coalition “Alliance for Changes”. After that, they have hit the bottom, from which they rose in 2010 with a huge win. In the next 4 years SDP will go through a period of coalition with SDA , but also internal fluctuations, that led to the departure of Zeljko Kosmic, member of BiH Presidency and one of the key people of SDP’s campaign “Coutry for people” from October 2010.
HDZ BiH – Hrvatska demokratska zajednica BiH Croatian Democratic Union BiH
HDZ BiH is a political party that started as daughter party of Croatian HDZ, and it is one of the winners of the firs democratic elections, alongside SDA and SDS. Soon after elections, currents from West Herzegovina took charge, and they will stay key base for elections for years after war. Major disagreements inside party happened in 2006, when HDZ’s representatives took down an agreed package of amendments on BiH Constitution, after which that current, led by Bozo Ljubinkovic and Martin Raguz, started HDZ 1990.
HDZ 1990- Hrvatska demokratska zajednica 1990 - Croatian democratic union 1990
They are second in power Croatian party. After 2010 elections, there was a chance for HDZ 1990 to go in “platform” with SDP and SDA, but putting HDZ BiH on side made parties from Sarajevo to include HSP and Peoples Party of Working for Better in federal government. Martin Raguz became head of the party in 2013 and significantly changed its profile and political program, so HDZ 1990 became more distant from HDZ BiH and it’s leader Dragan Covic.
SBB – Savez za bolju buducnost - Union for Better Future
SBB is positioning itself on political right-center. Started in 2009 by Fahrudin Radoncic, it has huge support in Dnevni avaz, biggest printed media in country. On general elections in 2010, Radoncic lost in run for member of Presidency by 20 thousand votes.
DF – Demokratska fronta - Democratic Front
Democratic Front – Zeljko Kosmic, started after schism between Komsic and Lagumdzija, that was about details of agreement between HDZ BiH and SDP, with which they changed the way of electing members of Presidency and representatives of Peoples parlaiment. DF had a fast growth as a political alternative. Emir Suljagic, who people see as a factor, alongside Kostic, of SDP’s success in 2010, will run for a membership in Presidency.
SDS – Srpska demokratska stranka - Serbian Democratic Party
Established by Radovan Karadzic, SDS was a third link in chain of “anti-communist” coalition. During the war, and until 2006 (except one short period of conflict between Banja Luka and Pale, when SNSD took charge with support of international community) SDS was a sole leader on political scene of Republika Srpska entity. On this elections, SDS formed a coalition “Union for changes” that gave candidates for a member of Presidency (Mladen Ivanic, PDP) and president of Republika Srpska (Ognjen Tadic, SDS) as only opposition against SNSD.
SNSD – Savez nezavisnih socijaldemokrata - Union of Independent Social Democrats
During its beginnings, SNSD was a political alternative for SDS. In 1998 they formed an minority government, which was short-termed. With changed program, Milorad Dodik comes back on charge in Republika Srpska few years later, using fluctuations inside SDS, when he wins elections in 2006, becoming dominant in Banja Luka.
SDA has continued its growth that started during 2012 local elections, while their vice president, Bakir Izetbegovic, convincingly won on elections for Bosnian member of Presidency. Winner of the last elections, SDP, lost almost 200 000 votes in last four years, and it is not seeing brighter future. HDZ BiH won majority of Croatian votes, at least those that were not “invalid”, and their president Dragan Covic has become Izetbegovic’s co-worker in Presidency as Croatian member.
Even though Martin Raguz had best campaign by all rankings, president of HDZ 1990 didn’t make it in the run for BiH Presidency as Croatian member.
SNSD survived a serious blow in Republika Srpska, but at least Dodik will stay President of Republika Srpska, while his party colleagues disappointed. “Soft” majority is expected in Parliament of Republika Srpska, together with parties that supported his candidature, but it is uncertain to say that it will happen for sure…
After 30 days of official campaign, but also unofficial that has been going on since February protests, it can be concluded that strong party infrastructure won yet another elections. Between emotion (message) and technique (organization), second one won. With about 40 thousand “white papers” in Federation and 29 thousand in Republika Srpska, then 36 thousand invalid in Federation and 18 thousand in Republika Srpska by other criteria, election monitoring was a disaster. Although official reports state that elections passed in “fair and democratic atmosphere according to electoral laws and rules, with small amount of irregularities and incidents”, it is hard to believe in something like that.
BiH is probably hardest country for public opinion researches of all European countries. Three nations that were in war with each other, fear, socially acceptable responses instead of true ones… And those are not all the problems. The biggest one is that last census took place in 1991, and the one that took place in 2013 (under huge political pressures) is still not available for researchers. Unique thing for all the researches was the answer on question about the direction in which is country going. Wrong direction was the answer of 90%, and in some researches 95%, asked, which is an infamous world record as far as I know. Even residents of Somaliland had lower percentages of negative answers. Researches state that from 58% to 65% of asked say that major problems are economic, especially those connected with unemployment. Other big problem is poverty as societies problem, as around 12% stated as major problem. On the third place came an eternal problem of all countries on Balkan – corruption – that around 11% of asked stated as major problem.
What researches have been showing all the time was low voter turnout. By all agencies and by my methodology, in June it was 48%, while it was raised by campaign to an unacceptable 53%. Yet, it should be noted that numerous people from diaspora are considered regular voters, and they are listed in voter registers in their home towns if they do not apply for “voting by mail”. Reasons for abstinence have been presented right before the elections by Srdjan Puhalo and Nada Perisic in their work “Abstinence in Bosnia and Herzegovina”. Their finding were confirmed by other researches where asked people stated as reasons against voting: voting will not change anything (32%), I am disappointed in political parties and candidates (25%), I do not have for who to vote (24%)… Possible reasons to vote were: politicans that are in charge for long time to retreat, new ones to come (24%), changes for the better (24%), parties to promote young people (22%)…
Researches conducted in June by IPSOS BiH for NDI showed that governments of BiH Federation and Republika Srpska do not have peoples trust. BiH Federation government got 79% negative marks, and Republika Srpska government got 63% negative marks. Most of the parties took this data seriously and run campaigns as they have never been in government.
Even though they also had access to this data, most interesting approach to the campaign, later to be seen as completely wrong, had SDA BiH which defended their works in last period. With this campaign they took all the merits, but all the responsibility for bad economic situation from last period too. Decision to give money designed for billboards in funds for flood damage repairs was good, but for some other party and other country. Later, when some billboards eventually appeared, they lowered already low parties and their president’s credibility. Campaign that started as positive, ended in fully negative tone, only against Democratic Front and their leader Zeljko Komsic.
This strategy of SDP BiH suited SDA, that on similar way as in 2010 pushed over margins their earlier coalition partner, Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina. Completely in their role, with solid and clear message box, without paying attention on their rivals, they were speaking as they have never been on charge. Although they were targets of constant attacks, by Democratic Front and SBB in first place, SDA’s officials kept back from returning fire. Campaign was won by technique (infrastructure). Everyone in BiH was surprised by SDA’a outdoor campaign. Exceptional amount of billboards with Bakir Izetbegovic was all over BiH from the first day of the campaign. Immediately after billboards a wave of pole posters, with same design as billboards and with amazing amount of different characters and names, has followed. Although it seemed as a mistake in beginning, as time passed by I have understood that strategy is really good and supports their main message – In unity lays power.
By all researches, strongest pole positions in the beginning of July were held by Democratic Front, new political party that emerged from schism between Zeljko Komsic and Zlatko Lagumdzija in SDP, and Union for Better Future of Fahrudin Radoncic.
DF’s campaign started as a leadership campaign by their candidate for President Emir Suljagic, together with Komsic, one of the rare leaders with positive marks in relevant researches. DF, mostly Emir Suljagic, had chance to profile themselves with strong message and positive campaign as only serious rivals against Izetbegovic and SDA. However, most of the messages turned into attacks against Izetbegovic and SDA, but also against Lagumdzija and SDP BiH. Negative campaign is not bad, especially if you want to create black and white picture. But negative campaign, and strategists that worked for DF had to be aware of that, lowers voter turnout which suits parties with better organization and more core voters. SDP BiH took the bait and responded. SDA was silent but they were showering DF, especially Emir Suljagic, with negativites through “friendly” medias. Last train for DF’s strategists were TV duels. SDA’s strategists decided that Izetbegovic should not participate in television debates with rivals, and with that, direct confrontation with Suljagic, in which Izetbegovic would probably lose, was avoided.
Absence of Izetbegovic’s reaction actually disabled development of campaign where DF makes the rules. Instead of changing the campaign that does not have any effects, DF’s strategists were hopelessly stuck for the existing. Although they were leading in beginning, in the last two weeks when everybody already have entered in their campaigns, it seemed like DF’s message is perishing. With that will match a panic attack on Martin Raguz in the last week of campaign. Action of putting posters all over Sarajevo and some other cities was led by amateur logic that with negative message Bosnian candidates can take back votes that Raguz already has taken. Result was indeed achieved, but in other direction. Raguz’s voters did not go back to their corpus, but went to abstinence. In this way, posters worked only for Dragan Covic. At the same time, part of the voters in Sarajevo will go for their second best choice, Nasa stranka (Our Party), which will put Denis Gratz in Federation Parliament.
On the other side, Dragan Covic, known for his earlier arrangements and alliance with Milorad Dodik, and by fact that he has organized and attended Darijo Kordic’s (sentenced war criminal) reception after release from prison this year in Busovaca, was perceived as a far worse option between two that could take Croatian chair in Marsala Tita Street.
With an open and a completely disoriented attack on Raguz in the last seven days, they were trying to equal him with Covic, with a goal of cutting down the support in Bosnian election corpus. This is specifically interesting from the ideological aspect, if there is ideology in front of interest in Bosnia and Herzegovina at all, since DF was created when Komsic left SDP because of the agreement between Covic and Lagumdzija. DF had to know that by working against Raguz, they work directly for Covic, who will advocate separating of voting units for the two members of Presidency that come from Federation, that is a foundation of above mentioned agreement, and schism between Zeljko and Zlatko.
From this disappointing DF’s strategy, Covic and Izetbegovic come as winners. Death of the SDA’s president Sulejman Tihic and his earlier absence from parties leadership, and also maybe the fact that Izetbegovic’s inner party opponents did not have another weapon, resulted that he has followed his parties results, which was not the case in earlier elections. In that battle, Fahrudin Radoncic kept his base, and finished in second place, with increase of votes. For post-election coalitions is important his first addressing, in which besides SBB’s, he states DF’s good results. However, in those calculations, SDA and HDZ BiH will be present in Federation. All depends of that how much will all parties strive for coalition in all cantons, and entity, or this processes will go in other directions.
Between parties, biggest surprise for me in this election is Nasa stranka (Our Party). Even though they did not manage to enter all the Parliaments they run for, their campaign excited all the experts. Their success is even bigger considering their finances, and that they were without clear leader, but with lot of booths, best internet campaign, and door-to-door campaign in the last week when it is most important. Even bigger surprise is direct passage of their president Denis Gratz into Federal Parliament, through Sarajevo canton, although he was almost completely unknown to public. Their result confirms that BiH needs strong urban option that will be on the opposite side from national and nationalistic parties.
On the other side, in Republika Srpska, Ivanic is leading by an inch for the membership in Presidency. Between parties that supported Mladen Ivanic under coalition Savez za promene (Union for Changes) (leaded by SDS and PDP) and parties that support Zeljka Cvijanovic (leaded by SNSD and DNS) crucial votes in small amount were provided by Bosnian returnee community, yet Ivanic can expect bigger advantage when votes from abroad arrive. This happened despite presence of local deals on field, and instructions for returnees to vote vor Cvijanovic, about which public hums in Republika Srpska in the last few days.
Going back to the beginning, it should be said that SDS made point that there is no idea of “big” coalition with SNSD. “Domovina” (Homeland), coalition of Bosnian and Croatian parties in Republika Srpska, will have five or six mandates so they could lead to a more stable government in this entity, but also connections on federal level. Taking notice that SNSD earlier rejected possibility of making coalition with “Domovina”, there is a possibility for SDS, PDP, NDP and “Domovina”, including change of sides by some of the Dodik’s pre-election allies, to form a majority in Republika Srpska government. Though, it will depend on negotiations for Federal and Federation government.
Election campaign is over. Besides faces from poster that took chairs in Presidency, complexity of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s political system leaves nobody free to say “who won” or 'will it be worse or even worser' . All tunnels and bridges have been formally opened. Balloons are blown out, cakes are eaten and jackets from pre-election conventions are packed. Months in front of us, in the more bureaucratic fashion, will be followed by strong efforts in changing of systematization of jobs. Government jobs of course, you did not believe in those 100 000 new ones, did you?
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