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Thursday, December 1, 2022

Bosnian Election Sees Standoff Between Nationalists and Reformists

An opinion survey conducted last week reported that nearly 40% of Bosnians had lost faith in a fair and just electoral system

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BOSNIA: On Sunday, Bosnians go to the ballot stands to choose the country’s new collective presidency and lawmakers at the national, regional and local levels, finally casting their vote of support either to the long-entrenched national parties or the new reformists focused on the economy.

Nearly 3.4 million people have rushed to the election stage to vote for their preferred candidate to rule a country, facing one of its worst political and economic crises since the end of its war in the 1990s, prompted by separatist policies of the Serb leadership and threats of blockades by Bosnian Croats.

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Voters will cast ballots for the three members of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, members of parliament, and the president of the country’s Republika Srpska. Some 90 political parties have their candidates on the battlefront, with another 17 candidates running as an independent.

I expect some changes at least for our youth,” said Mubarak Sarac, a pensioner arriving at a polling station in Sarajevo. “It does not matter if old or new (politicians) win, they just need to change something in their minds for the sake of our young people.”

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Bosnia comprises of two autonomous regions, the Serb-dominated Serb Republic and the Federation shared by Bosniaks and Croats, linked by a weak central government. The Federation is split into 10 cantons. There is also the neutral Brcko district in the north.

This year’s election campaign trails were dominated by ruling ethnic parties who focused strongly on hate speech and nationalist rhetoric, on themes of protection of individual national interest and opponent criticism rather than the economic problems of rising inflation and lack of jobs.

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Honestly, I don’t have high expectations,” said Nemanja Ratkovac, casting his ballot in the Serb Republic’s de facto capital of Banja Luka. “I think that neither of the (candidates) did much in this election campaign, except (speak) against each other.”

The lack of reliable polls has made it nearly impossible to predict the outcome of the elections, but many political experts and analysts suggest that nationalist parties will remain dominant and the biggest change may come in the Bosnian Muslim, or Bosniak, camp, which is the largest and most politically diverse.

The leader of the largest Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegovic, is running for the role of Bosniak presidency member in what is seen as a tight race with Denis Becirovic of the anti-nationalist Social Democratic Party (SDP), whose bid is supported by 11 civic-oriented opposition parties.

Observers predict that Serb and Croat nationalist parties will remain in power, but some polls have suggested that separatist pro-Russian leader Milorad Dodik, who is running for the president of the Serb Republic, may face strong opposition from economist Jelena Trivia.

The Croat parties have warned they may block the formation of a government after the vote if moderate Zeljko Komsic wins the post of Croat presidency member.

They say his victory would be based on votes by the majority Bosniaks, and that they will not regard him as the legitimate Croat representative.

“I think that finally, after 30 years, it should be better for the people in the whole of Bosnia,” said Milenko Crnjak, after he voted in the western town of Livno. “We have so much potential … but young people are departing and the old are staying and dying.”

Bosnia never fully recovered from the trauma of its interethnic conflict in 1992-1995, which claimed nearly 100,000 lives. The war started when Serbs, then a third of the population, tried to dismember it and unite the territories they claimed as their own with neighbouring Serbia.

In the past eight years alone, the economic recession and political unrest in the country have prompted the youth to migrate in search of better jobs, and public services and to escape endemic corruption.

A nationwide opinion survey published last week on public perception of elections indicated that more than 40 per cent of Bosnians believed their country’s electoral system did not allow for a genuine reflection of citizens’ will.

As a result, many young voters as well as the old skipped the ballot stage on Sunday.

“I do not expect anything new after these elections. Everything will be the same,” Mira Sladojevic, a pensioner in her seventies in Sarajevo, told AFP. “I haven’t voted for a long time,” she added.

The polls opened at 7 a.m (0500 GMT) and will close at 7 p.m (1700 GMT). The first official results are expected at midnight, but political parties are expected to come out with their results around 10 p.m.

Also Read: Italy: Mario Draghi, Former ECB President, Receives The Mandate To Form A New Government

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