Bosnia And Herzegovina Hotbed Of Political Unrest And Disintegration Fears

Last Sunday’s elections in Bosnia and Hercegovina (BiH), which saw a 50% voter turnout, while marked by continued electoral and political rape of Croats in that country as one of the three constitutional peoples (Bosniaks (Muslims), Serb and Croats) delivered results that put an end to the long-lasting reign within the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina of the corrupt and corrupting Muslim Izetbegovic “dynasty”. Readers may remember it was Alija Izetbegovic, President of the Presidency of BiH to 1998 and later member of the Presidency to 2001 and Islamic philosopher who died in 2003 and was succeeded in political leadership of his only son Bekir Izetbegovic. Bekir like his father heavily leaned towards creating an Islamic state in BiH and if that failed (which has not yet) then they both would undertake measures to degrade and belittle and oppress Croats living in the same regions of the country as Bosniaks or Muslims and under supposed equal constitutional rights as constitutional peoples.

Sunday 2 October election results have out of the long-standing incumbents on the Presidency confirmed Bekir Izetbegovic’s loss and exit. This result though does not mean that Croats in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina will now be free of pressures and oppressions that come their way from Muslims or Bosniaks and perhaps it is for that very reason the country’s top international envoy whose duty and role is to oversee the implementation of the 1995 Dayton Agreement for BiH, High Representative Christian Schmidt, decided to impose wide-ranging amendments to Bosnia’s Constitution immediately after the polls had closed on Sunday, which would spill into electoral law.

It has been years since the Constitutional Court in Bosnia and Herzegovina delivered a decision in late 2016 that the country’s electoral law be changed to accommodate a guarantee that each of the three constitutional peoples would elect their own representatives in the Presidency and other representative and governing bodies in the country. This is particularly and crucially important for Croats because they are in relative smaller numbers in the country and can be outvoted in cantons by others ethnic groups that also form the constitutional people.  Yet in all those years nothing had been changed in the country’s Electoral Law to accommodate the Constitutional Court’s decision from 2016 and it seems that Christian Schmidt has “put his foot down”!

The future three members of the BiH Presidency: Denis Becirovic (Muslim or Bosniak Representative on the Presidency who comes from Bekir Izetbegovic’s opposition), Zeljka Cvijanovic as Serb Representative, and Zeljko Komsic as Croat Representative. The electoral rape and utter unfairness of the country’s electoral law that places Croats at a dire disadvantage is highlighted with the fact that Borjana Kristo (HDZ Party), a candidate for Croat Representation on the Presidency, had won over 90% of Croat vote in towns and villages where in the Federation Croats live as majority ethnic group with Muslims and where, sadly and undemocratically HDZ has wielded corrupt power for decades that seems to have caused fear among many voters to vote away from HDZ because they may lose their job or perks they receive from HDZ for being politically loyal. But Muslims outnumber Croats in majority of places. Clearly Croats said a firm no to Zeljko Komsic as their Representative, but the Electoral Law favours him! It is believed that had HDZ not caused so much disappointment and existential fears among the Croats in the Federation, voter turnout would have been greater and other Croat political parties and candidates would have had a fighting chance to win significant number of seats.

Hence, the awful tragedy of electoral rape of Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina continues!

Zeljko Komsic was, again, elected to the Presidency as Croat Representative by Bosniak or Muslim, not Croat vote!  Again, the electoral law was not changes as directed by the Bosnian Constitutional Court, which legislation would ensure that each of the three constitutional peoples (Bosniaks, Croats and Serbs) elect their own representatives.

Journalists rooting for status quo in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, which permits oppression of Croats my Muslims or Bosniaks, will try and convince the world that the move High Representative Christian Schmidt made immediately after the polls closed on Sunday is destructive, illegal, unnecessary and that it threatens democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, forgetting that the 1995 Dayton Agreement which was about democracy and rights has been sabotaged and derailed too many times to count since then – not by the High Representative but by BiH politicians in power! Well, there is no democracy in the country to speak of as one of the three Constitutional people that are supposed to have the same rights as the other two continue to experience oppression and setbacks in asserting their rights. The truth is that Bosnia and Herzegovina is a corrupt political and economic pit where detrimental ethnic divisions are stronger than ever.

The surprise new intervention made on last Sunday by Schmidt changes the election law by raising the number of representatives in the Federation entity’s House of Peoples and the way they are chosen. The changes also include the deadline (one month) for the formation of the government after the election, as well as measures to ensure the functionality of the Bosniak and Croat-dominated Federation entity.

Schmidt, whose task is to oversee implementation of the 1995 peace accords that ended the 1992-95 war, also imposed changes to the Constitution of the Federation entity intending to ensure future functionality of its constitutional court and the selection process of the judges.

The US Embassy to Bosnia and Herzegovina welcomed Schmidt’s move, stating in its 4 October Press Release that the move would “bolster the stability and functionality of Bosnia and Herzegovina … This action was both urgent and necessary … The High Representative’s decision addresses problems that have plagued the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina for many years.  Four years after the 2018 elections, the Federation has not implemented the results, and the Federation Constitutional Court is nearly paralysed.  This has deprived Federation residents of their constitutional rights, undermined the rule of law, and emboldened ethno-nationalists across BiH.  Together, these problems threaten BiH’s sovereignty, territorial integrity, and multiethnic character.”.

The British Ambassador to BiH, Julian Reilly, Tweeted on 3 October: “The United Kingdom supports the role played by the High Representative and his Office in Bosnia and Herzegovina.  It is a source of regret that the powers of the High Representative continue to be needed in Bosnia and Herzegovina, but in the absence of domestic political 1/3”.

In essence, Schmidt has changed the formula for the appointment of delegates to the upper chamber of the Federation of BiH entity parliament, the House of Peoples. A widespread opinion came through these past days that this change will give the minorities more rights to be represented and when one looks at election results for representatives that went against Croats in areas where they are outnumbered by Muslims, one may sense a realistic hope that Croats will have a better chance now.  

The measures package taken by Schmidt are said to “set the stage for further electoral and constitutional reform, including to meet BiH’s commitments for EU integration and to address concrete problems facing the country.  These measures also strengthen the constitutional safeguards provided by the Dayton Peace Agreement and the Constitution for constituent peoples while preventing abuse or paralysis of the system…”

The Prime Minister of Croatia, Andrej Plenkovic, welcomed the decision of the high representative of the international community, Christian Schmidt, which changed the electoral law of Bosnia and Herzegovina, pointing out that this ensured the political survival of the Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The other side to this medal is the fact that the Bosnian HDZ/Croatian Democratic Party, Andrej Plenkovic’s political party twin, is responsible for the atrocious situation regarding the continued oppression of Croats in BiH and the exodus or emigration of Croats in droves. That responsibility stems from the fact that HDZ in BiH has managed to stay in much of the power corridors and that stay did not always result from honest politics but from corrupt ones. Schmidt’s move for changes to the BiH Constitution seem like having delivered a licence of sorts for HDZ party to retain the power of maintaining a legislative and political gridlock on important matters in the Federation unless representation in the federation upper house chambers moves significantly away from HDZ. It is now up to Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina to vote away to HDZ in future elections.  

President of Croatia, Zoran Milanovic, said that the High Representative Christian Schmidt “played underground, rat games” and that the electoral system in Bosnia and Herzegovina lacks representativeness, where anyone can elect anyone and then the smallest ones suffer.

“The death penalty for Croats, in the political sense, has been commuted to life imprisonment, and we must celebrate that. But this is a disaster for Croatian foreign policy, this is quisling behaviour.

“The Croats had one candidate (for the Presidency), they came out in good numbers and they failed to prevail. There is no help. In the next four years, Zagreb will either stand behind the rights of the Croats in BiH as a constituent nation or there will be no Croats there anymore,” Milanovic concluded.

The intervention after the polling had finished by the UN’s overseer Christian Schmidt is likely to dominate the post-election landscape and its effect on Bosnia and Herzegovina’s  national and political fortunes. So far, in the past thirty years BiH has been a hotbed of ethnic rivalries for power and supremacy of essentially nationalist parties, which have maintained power by stirring up sectarian divisions, while presiding over vast patronage networks which helped further cement their grip on people. But after nearly three decades of this as well as growing social and economic stagnation and decay Bosnia and Herzegovina may be ripe for the picking by external full control.  

Will the moves to control stop with UN envoy Schmidt or will new winds blow in more control from the Islamic world via Turkey or from Orthodox Russia are questions that cannot be ignored.

What international actors should be concerned about is Russia’s offer of support to the Bosnian Serbs (the the Serbian Republic within BiH forged in genocide and ethnic cleansing of non-Serbs during the 1990’s war). Considering Russia’s recent and current encroachment upon eastern Ukraine and Crimea, it is not unthinkable that Moscow would collaborate with the Serbs to further expand its influence and control, fuelling conflict in the region. Russia has long championed secessionist Serb Milorad Dodik, and more recently Moscow has allied with China to threaten to strip the BiH High Representative’s powers.

Turkey’a President Erdogan has for years appeared to consider Bosnia and Herzegovina his turf, his second home… Turkey’s engagement with BiH has mostly been of a political nature but this was backed up by diverse business and cultural activities, often using the Ottoman legacy and Islam as leverage. Erdogan has had close relations with the Bosnian Muslim political parties and the detrimental effects on Croats have been visible for some years now. Islamic supremacy in the country, or Federation of BiH is a yearning only too visible.

In the absence of a tentative alternative to Dayton Agreement for BiH, rather widespread belief is that the fate of Bosnia and Herzegovina is inextricably tied to the fate of the High Representative as that body is its main bulwark against the forces of disintegration. Thuds from Russia and Turkey, and even China, are getting louder and louder though!

When it comes to visions for Bosnia and Herzegovina’s near and distant future, things are still as they were in 1995: Let’s wait and see! Anything can happen. And if Russia pushes harder to get Bosnian Serbs to sabotage any BiH EU accession and NATO membership ambitions and plans then matters of violent disintegration are surely to follow. Whether controlling forces come from Russia or Turkey with stronger resolve, or from both simultaneously, a great deal can develop including a new armed conflict. Regretfully! Ina Vukic  

Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina Secure A Spot On The Country’s Power Bench



dr Dragan Covic - Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ BiH Elected Member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina Photo: Zeljko Milicevic

dr Dragan Covic – Croatian Democratic Union/HDZ BiH
Elected Member of the Presidency of
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Photo: Zeljko Milicevic

An eyeball overview of media outputs, particularly British, since Sunday 12 October 2014 – when general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (B&H) closed – tells us that candidates from “nationalist rival ethnic groups” (Bosniak [Muslim], Croat and Serb) achieved victory! It’s difficult to say whether the negative spin or connotation in these mainstream media reports, by way of using the “dirty” word “nationalist”, comes out of a concerning lack of knowledge about the mechanism (tripartite presidency where the chair rotates every eight or so months) put in place in 1995 by the Dayton Agreement for B&H presidency or whether it is a reflection of politically malicious and inappropriate disquiet of many with the fact that, finally, after 8 years Bosnian Croats have secured a proper voice of representation in the tripartite presidency.

There is no doubt about it, Croats have long been discriminated against not only at the level of the Bosnia and Herzegovina Presidency, but also in the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (to which they belong in co-existence with Bosniaks, while Serbs alone were given their own ethnic entity in form of Serbian Republic), where parties with predominant Croat electoral support have not entered government and where political decisions are made that have a major impact on Croats as a people.

Over the last eight years the following condition in BiH Presidency endured: Croats did not have their own representative in the Presidency (apart from predominantly Bosniak vote giving a place, twice, to Zeljko Komsic (who fought in the 1990’s war in the Bosniak run ArmyB&H), Serbs had one representative, while Bosniaks had two. This was so despite the fact that the B&H Constitution refers to Croats, Serbs, and Bosniaks as equal constituent peoples, and stipulates that the B&H Presidency is composed of a Croat, Serbian, and Bosniak member – three members representing the three constituent peoples. So really, Zeljko Komsic was not a Croat representing the Bosnian Croats on the presidency but he was there as a “Croat for the Bosniaks”, so to speak.


So, we come to the importance of the Sunday 12 October 2014 elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina for Croats: the results have and will markedly change the relationship of power between political parties in the country, although the challenges for that deeply divided country remain the same. The latter being a matter that has no solution on the horizon, there is an uplifting reason to celebrate: the biggest win in these elections is that the Bosnian Croats now – finally – have a legitimately elected Croat representative as member of B&H Presidency, Dragan Covic, the leader of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) of B&H. As to the other ethnic make-up of the Presidency Bakir Izetbegovic, Party of Democratic Action/SDA, remains as Bosniak/Muslim member and as to the Serb member it is most likely that the close numbers between the two candidates will favour Mladen Ivanic from the Alliance for Change rather than Serbian Republic’s Milorad Dodig’s favourite, Zeljka Cvijanovic from the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats/SNSD.
The great thing to celebrate for Croats in B&H is that the new government in Bosnia and Herzegovina, at any level, will not be able to be formed without the Croat representation!

Croat, dr. Dragan Covic, is a new player on the podium of power in Bosnia and Herzegovina and – halleluiah – he minces no words when he carries the interests of Bosnian Croats under his wings.

Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina will have an electorate in which they will elect their representatives just as the other two ethnic groups have,” Covic said at his press conference on Monday 13 October. “That is the minimum needed by this country. No one has the right any more to speculate with the interests of the Croatian people… I am particularly gladdened by the fact that we have been so convincing that we have won over 80% of votes in some counties and the result that we were victorious in all parts of Bosnia and Herzegovina where the Croatian population is not a minority.


Back to the politically malicious and inappropriate disquiet I mentioned at the beginning of this article it comes to mind that Dragan Covic’s sweeping victory comes with a certain sense of sweet  vindication. That is, Covic was elected a member of the B&H Presidency in general elections of 2002. But was removed from that office in March 2005 by the ludicrous Lord Paddy Ashdown, who served then as the High Representative for B&H, amidst court convictions for abuse of power, which convictions were subsequently overturned by court of appeal and Covic was in relation to other attempts to pin corruption against him absolved of any guilt, finally, in 2012. Ashdown had in 2005 rated Covic as a threat to the reputation of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ashdown did always take the pompous high-road and argued that something must be done to prevent Bosnia self-destructing, or rather being destroyed by its leaders. Well, he didn’t do much by way of progress, his “reign” over Bosnia and Herzegovina saw to it that ethnic divisions sharpen, especially that Croats get trampled on by Bosniaks while the Serbian Republic entity founded on genocide and ethnic cleansing flourishes, and corruption and unemployment become entrenched.

And so perhaps it will be in Bosnia and Herzegovina the way others, not Ashdown, think is best: for the people of Bosnia and Herzegovina to take responsibility for their own future.

The unwieldy power-sharing arrangement for the Presidency that is a part of a political system created by the US-brokered Dayton peace accord in 1995 is a system that has not worked for over a decade. Last Sunday’s voting was held amid mounting social discontent over endemic corruption, ethnic disputes and dire economic woes. Unemployment is over 44% and poverty, despondency – at around almost every corner one turns. All this is the legacy of those like Paddy Ashdown – the know-it-all with no visible substance or connection to reality. The feasibility of continuing with Dayton Agreement should have been number one item on his agenda when he was High Representative. Surely after ten years it was crystal clear that Dayton Agreement was no longer in agreement with B&H reality but working against any prosperity it originally thought it could bring about.

The re-elected Bosniak leader Bakir Izetbegovic talks of a potential new coalition to break the deadlock over reforms, move towards EU and NATO integration and fight corruption and crime. Oh dear, what has he been doing during the past mandate in that position!?
While the Serbs will continue pushing for independence from B&H it is of a particularly comforting note that the elected Croat Dragan Covic is not impartial to the possibility of a separate Croat entity within Bosnia. Certainly, if one is to judge the future by the behaviour of Bekir Izetbegovic just after his electoral victory was announced yesterday, there will be no changes for the better; the Bosniaks will continue usurping power and claiming superiority over Croats. And that just will not do for much longer. Freedom and self-reliance is the only formula that will save the Croats in that swamp of despondency and tragedy. Ina Vukic, Prof. (Zgb); B.A., M.A.Ps. (Syd)

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