Bosnia and Herzegovina: The Komsic affair – restored!

Zeljko Komsic
Photo: bljesak.info

Balkan history is replete with examples of how disingenuous political tactics used to establish an ethnic hegemony lead to tragedy. Unfortunately, people who refuse to recognize history’s mistakes are prone to repeating them.

By Gordon N. Bardos/ transcoflict 

Some six years ago, the present author did a mathematical analysis of Bosnia’s 2010 electoral results which showed that the ostensible Croat candidate for the Bosnian state presidency, Zeljko Komsic, had in fact received some 70-80 percent of his votes from Bosniac voters. Two months ago, in a replay of the 2006 and 2010 elections, Komsic again won election to the Bosnian presidency by effectively disenfranchising the vast majority of Croat voters, heralding what is likely to be yet another period of political instability in the country.

To anyone familiar with the history and fate of the two Yugoslavia’s in the 20th century, historical precedent suggests that Komsic’s election under these conditions should be of considerable concern. The disingenuous political manipulation involved in Komsic’s election is nothing new—and unfortunately we have considerable evidence of the consequences such tactics have had in the past. As this year marks the one-hundredth anniversary of the foundation of the first Yugoslav state, it is worth reviewing Komsic’s election from the perspective of how previous such attempts have fared.

Probably unavoidably, the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes (renamed the Kingdom of Yugoslavia in 1929) that emerged in 1918 from the breakup of the Habsburg and Ottoman Empires started out as an administrative extension of the independent pre-war Kingdom of Serbia. This pre-war Serbian kingdom had the moral authority of being on the victorious Allied side, and the organizational advantage of having a fully-developed governmental bureaucracy and military force. Unfortunately, what this pre-war Serbian bureaucracy lacked was the political experience needed to understand that governing a diverse, multiethnic and multi-religious population would be significantly different than governing a largely mono-ethnic and mono-religious Serbian national state.

Thus, almost by default, the post-World War I Yugoslav state simply tried to expand and impose Serbia’s pre-war unitary political system upon the whole of the new South Slavic state. Yet the problem with this strategy, as Ivo Banac noted in his study of the first Yugoslavia’s formation, was that

unitarism was plainly opposed to the reality of Serb, Croat, and Slovene national individuality and moreover in contradiction to the empirically observable fact that these peoples were fully formed national entities of long standing…to ignore the fact that the South Slavs were not one nation, one culture, and one loyalty, or to insist that they could acquire these unitary characteristics in due course, only weakened the already fragile state and diminished the prospects for good-neighborliness based on the rejection of all forms of assimilationism and on respect of Yugoslavia’s multinational character, the only policy that could strengthen the Yugoslav polity…Cooperation was not the aim of political leaders, nor could it be as long as the centralist bloc refused to respect a principle of concurrent majority in each national community…A pretense was made that such parties as the Democratic Party were ‘multitribal,’ though in fact the Croat and Slovene Democrats had no stable support in their communities. Yugoslavia was indeed a highly diversified multinational state, but multinationalism could not promote consociationalism while the national ideologies of the principal group encouraged the notion that domination through assimilation was imminent.

Given these ideological blinders, in the first Yugoslavia neither multi-party democracy nor royal dictatorship could develop a framework for a united state which at the same time satisfied the legitimate interests of Yugoslavia’s various ethnic groups to autonomy and self-governance. After some two decades of chronic instability, the outbreak of World War II provided the final nail in the first Yugoslavia’s coffin.

Tragically, during World War II these problems came back to haunt the South Slavs in the form of the fratricidal civil war which afflicted Yugoslavia from 1941-45. Josip Broz Tito’s communist movement emerged victorious from the bloodbath, due in no small part to the fact that it was perhaps alone in formulating a political platform able to attract at least a modicum of support from amongst Yugoslavia’s various peoples.

One of the most important pillars of this platform was the creation of an ethno-federal system, and an implicit acceptance of the political equality of Yugoslavia’s constituent peoples, regardless of size (the implicit acceptance would become more explicit as time went on). For many academic specialists of Tito’s Yugoslavia, this was in fact the key reason for the Partisan movement’s successes; Susan Woodward, for instance, has claimed that “the commitment to recognize the separate existence of Yugoslav nations and their sovereign rights was critical to the communist victory after 1943.”

Nowhere was this more critical than in Bosnia & Herzegovina (BiH), where the famous 1943 declaration of the Anti-Fascist Resistance Council of BiH (local acronym: ZAVNOBiH) claimed that Bosnia was “neither Serbian nor Croatian nor Muslim…but Serbian and Muslim and Croatian,” thereby explicitly endorsing the concept that all three ethnic groups were equal constituent peoples in BiH.

Yet even though the Yugoslav communists were more astute politically when it came to dealing with Yugoslavia’s national question, they too failed to find a formula to resolve it, just as the Habsburgs and the Royal Yugoslav government had failed before them. By the 1960s, for instance, Dennison Rusinow would claim that

the tendency to subsume all other questions and conflicts to the national one and to interpret and simplify every issue in national terms, reminiscent of old Yugoslavia and of the Habsburg monarchy before it, was again becoming nearly universal.

Indeed, as time went on, the main Marxist theoretician in the Yugoslav communist leadership, Eduard Kardelj, became more and more pessimistic about resolving the problem. By the 1960s Kardelj would claim

We have up until now tried everything possible to maintain Yugoslavia; first it was a unitary state, then it became a federation, and now we are moving towards a confederation. If even that does not succeed, then it only remains for us to admit that the Comintern was right when it claimed that Yugoslavia was an artificial creation and that we—Yugoslav communists—had made a mistake.

With Tito’s death in 1980, the terminal stage of Yugoslavia’s disintegration began. Although the country’s collapse was caused by multiple phenomenon (both domestic and international), one of these most certainly was Slobodan Milošević attempt in the latter half of the decade to impose his own designated leaders in Kosovo, Montenegro and Vojvodina, all in an attempt to build an artificial majority coalition for his chosen vision of a more centralized, unitary Yugoslav future. Predictably, the leaders of Yugoslavia’s other republics/ethnic groups objected. As Slovenian president Milan Kučan argued, “Can the imposition of majority decisionmaking in a multinational community by those who are the most numerous be anything else but the violation of the principle of the equality of nations, the negation of its sovereignty and therefore the right to autonomous decisionmaking…? “ The rest, as they say, is history.

Just as it had in the two Yugoslavia’s, disagreements over the principle of the equality of nations in a multi-ethnic state plagued Bosnia & Herzegovina from its beginnings as well. In 1991-1992 Bosnia’s Serbs justified their rebellion in part on the argument that their equal rights as a constituent nation in BiH were being violated by the outvoting of the Croat-Muslim coalition in Bosnia.

Resolving this issue would plague peace negotiators for the duration of the war; indeed, one of the prerequisites for ending the Bosnian war was for international negotiators to reconcile themselves to the necessity of applying federal and consociational principles to any post-war settlement. As the late Richard Holbrooke once noted,

Bosnia is a federal state. It has to be structured as a federal state. You cannot have a unitary government, because then the country would go back into fighting. And that’s the reason that the Dayton agreement has been probably the most successful peace agreement in the world in the last generation, because it recognized the reality.

Somewhere over the past few years, however, a new concept has crept into Bosnian politics, which Ivan Lovrenovic has described as an “epochal precedent”: a renunciation of the ZAVNOHBiH idea that Bosnia & Herzegovina was “Serbian and Muslim and Croatian, which excluded the idea the criteria of majority and minorities in governing, in claiming to have greater rights,” in favor of the notion that there is now a political majority and political minorities in BiH. Entirely predictably, the unilateral abandonment of the ZAVNOHBiH principles has thrown Bosnian politics into chaos.

Numerous motivations are driving this policy. Islamist elements in the country have for decades wanted an unchallengeable unitarist order in the country. As Alija Izetbegovic demanded some forty years ago

There exists one order, one dynamic, one well-being, one progress which can be built on this land and in this region, but that is not the order, progress and well-being of Europe and America…the Islamic movement can and must move towards taking power as soon as it is morally and numerically strong enough so that it can not only destroy the existing non-Islamic [order], but build a new Islamic power.

While Bosnia’s secular unitarists have a different metaphysical inspiration, the end result is largely the same. Unfortunately, few international observers have been keen enough to recognize this. Among the rare few has been Sumantra Bose, who once correctly noted that many of “the strongest opponents of diffusion of political authority and sharing of power [manifested in the Dayton Peace Accords] are very often deeply illiberal elements—ethnic majoritarian nationalists . . . who sometimes try to obscure their real agenda, centralization and domination, by invoking the principle of equality of all citizens regardless of ethnicity or nationality.” Bose would also note,

The shrill protests of many (not all) Bosnian and foreign integrationist revisionists against the Dayton settlement are inspired, in fact, not by a value-based commitment to a multi-national, civic, society but by a desire for a less decentralized, more unitary state which will put the disobedient and disloyal Bosnian Serbs (and to a lesser extent, the intransigent BiH Croats) in their place. The underlying motive is to settle accounts from the war, rather than build a forward-looking vision and strategy for the reconstruction of Bosnia & Herzegovina in the overall context of the Yugoslav region.

Somewhat ironically, although the advocates of this policy claim to be civic non-nationalists who reject “constructed” ethnic categories, they either do not understand or do not care about the intellectual contradiction at the heart of their own argument—that dividing ethnic groups into permanent political majorities and minorities does not break down ethnic identities and allegiances, it reifies and reinforces them.

Moreover, given the realities of contemporary Bosnia, what the unitarists are actually trying to impose is not a civic, non-national state and society, but a form of internal colonialism in which one group of people in one part of the country is allowed to establish political domination over other groups of people in other parts of the country.

While Komsic claims he has the understanding of the American ambassador in Sarajevo and the High Representative, most reasonable people agree that in a complex multiethnic country such policies are detrimental. As far back as September 2006, for instance, Haris Silajdzic explained the obvious to Komsic,

I believe that if we live in a system of ethnic representation and if the Bosniacs choose the Bosniac representative, and the Serbs the Serb representative, that it is not just towards the Croats that someone chooses their representative on their behalf. I believe that that is dangerous for BiH…and that will cause citizens of Croat nationality to feel revulsion towards BiH. And that could lead the Croats to ask for a third entity.

Other prominent public figures in Bosnia have voiced similar concerns. Senad Hadzifejzovic once noted that Sarajevo’s imposition of Komsic on the Croats was akin to the HDZ trying to impose the rebel leader Fikret Abdic on the Bosniac electorate, while Muhamed Filipovic has said that if Komsic had any morals he never would have even presented himself as a candidate. Meanwhile, scholars such as Mile Lasić and Sacir Filandra have argued that the unitarist nationalism Komsic represents was as dangerous to Bosnia & Herzegovina as Croat and Serb separatist nationalism.

Even individuals whose political opinions on most things are diametrically opposed have expressed similar views on this issue. On the eve of BiH’s October elections the leader of the Islamic Community of Bosnia & Herzegovina, Husein Kavazovic, explicitly stated that “I do not consider it good that the members of one people choose the representatives of another people,” while Milorad Dodik, for his part, warned that others should not make the same mistake the Serbs made in Yugoslavia. The prominent Sarajevo commentator Nedzad Latic has perhaps been most dire of all, warning that the political games Komsic and his followers are playing were “leading Bosnia to hell.”

To conclude, it is worth going back to the quote by Ivo Banac cited at the beginning of this piece. Banac’s description on the problems facing the first Yugoslavia was written in 1980s to describe what had taken place some six decades earlier. An interesting thought experiment, however, is to take what Banac wrote in the 1980s, and, by changing tenses and a few nouns and adjectives, see how his words apply today, some forty years later. What we get is the following:

…unitarism is plainly opposed to the reality of Bosniac, Croat, and Serb national individuality and moreover in contradiction to the empirically observable fact that these peoples are fully formed national entities of long standing…To act as if this is not the case, to ignore the fact that the peoples of Bosnia & Herzegovina are not one nation, one culture, and one loyalty, or to insist that they can acquire these unitary characteristics in due course, only weakens the already fragile state and diminishes the prospects for good-neighborliness based on the rejection of all forms of assimilationism and on respect of Bosnia & Herzegovina’s multinational character, the only policy that can strengthen the Bosnian polity…Cooperation is not the aim of political leaders, nor can it be as long as the centralist bloc refuses to respect a principle of concurrent majority in each national community. Instead, the centralists seek to impose a patchwork majority, consisting of Bosniac parties and their tactical allies, onto the parties that represent most of the non-Bosniac groups. A pretense is made that such parties as the Democratic Front are “multitribal,” though in fact the Croat and Serb Democrats have no stable support in their communities. Bosnia & Herzegovina is indeed a highly diversified multinational state, but multinationalism cannot promote consociationalism while the national ideology of the principal group encourages the notion that domination through assimilation is imminent.”

As the French might put it, plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose

Balkan history is replete with examples of how disingenuous political tactics used to establish an ethnic hegemony lead to tragedy. Unfortunately, people who refuse to recognize history’s mistakes are prone to repeating them.

(Gordon N. Bardos is president of SEERECON, a political risk and strategic consultancy specializing in Southeastern Europe)

A Matter For Self-Preservation: Croatians In Bosnia and Herzegovina

Croats in BiH rally against
2018 election of Zeljko Komsic for their representative in the presidency
Photo: Jabuka TV

On Sunday 7 October 2018, Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH) held general elections, including for its three-member presidency. The multi-ethnic institution, which includes one representative from each of the country’s three ethnic communities – the Croats, the Muslim Bosniaks and the Serbs – is one of the power-sharing bodies established to promote and sustain equal rights in the fractured state after the bloody war in the 1990s. The 1995 Dayton Peace Accords set the stage for ethnic equality when it comes to rights and power. Despite the late 2016 BiH Constitutional court ruling that Electoral law must be changed in order to ensure each ethnic group votes for its own representative in the presidency and other governing institutions, the law had not been changed! Hence, the Croats of BiH were left with the prospect that mainly Bosniaks vote-in and vote for the candidate Bosniak political lead supports to represent the Croats into the presidency!

That utterly unacceptable prospect has been a sad reality for Croats and is, once again – a wretched reality: Bosniaks voted Zeljko Komsic (Democratic Front party) into the presidency while the Croats’ vote for their strongest candidate Dragan Covic (HDZ/Croatian Democratic Union party) – failed. This is the third time Komsic had been voted in as the Croat representative on the presidency and the first two times (2006 and 2010 as member of the leftist, pro-communist Social Democratic party). Furthermore, given that Komsic was a highly decorated member of the BiH Army (Muslim) during the war and not a member of the Croatian Defence Council, which ended up defending BiH Croats against the Serb and later Bosniak onslaught, his very presence among Croats is treated with great disdain and rejection. In fact, post the 11 October Mostar-based protest “Not My President”, he has been declared as persona non grata in several Croat dominated municipalities.

Anti Zeljko Komsic rally
Mostar 11 October 2018
Photo: Jabuka Tv

The presidency’s new composition is fuelling more tension and distrust than what was the case in the lead up to the elections, threatening Bosnia’s future as a country led and made up of three equal ethnic groups. While elected candidates of their respective ethnic political parties represent the Serbs and Muslims – Milorad Dodik and Sefik Dzaferovic – the third seat is filled by Zeljko Komsic against the wishes of most of Bosnia’s Croats. The “fire-accelerator” adding to the fuelling certainly includes the lame, politically orchestrated and questionable 2017 ICTY verdict of “joint criminal enterprise” against Croats in BiH and Croatia, which has evidently provided the Muslims with “perfect” excuses for covering-up and denial of the their brutal and criminal attempts to annihilate Croats in BiH during the war. It’s opportune and perhaps politically significant to mention here that there are actions and initiatives currently being undertaken in Croatia with the aim to have this ICTY verdict re-examined and reviewed as it is deemed unsafe and not representing the truth or justice.

According to election rules currently in place, and protested bitterly by Croats as well as members of smaller ethnic communities, Croats and Bosniak Muslims vote together in one half of Bosnia, the Federation, while the Serb candidate is elected by the Serb Republic. Hence, Bosniaks (not majority Croats) having voted Komsic in as Croat representative is laced with inevitable and unacceptable Bosniak influence over the fate of Croats in BiH as a constitutionally equal group. Regardless of the fact that Komsic advocates unity within BiH (between the three ethnic groups), something the West seems to like or want, even “Blind Freddy” can see the deepening disadvantage and discrimination against Croats there. Unity does seem unachievable.

One cannot, therefore, neither dismiss nor criticise as unwarranted the increasingly spirited calls for the formation of a third entity in BiH, i.e. Croat entity for self-preservation in particular.

With so much energy that Croatia’s President Kolinda Grabar Kitarovic and Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic had poured into supporting Dragan Covic’s election campaign for the presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) it is almost impossible to avoid the conclusion that this narrow and specific support may actually have been a purposeful tactic to favour and play into Russia’s cold war tactics for control over that part of South-East Europe where, guided by Russia’s choices, Croats of BiH are not likely to factor in importance or decision-making. It does appear Croatia’s leadership did not try hard enough to influence and grow influence (e.g by the US and/or EU) for a truly representative outcome for Croat in the BiH presidency, thus leaving room for the Serb muscle (supported by Russia) and Muslim Bosniak muscle (supported by Turkey) to grow even stronger at Croats’ peril and fear.

Indeed, a worldwide consensus of political analysts comes through with BiH seen as a battleground of a new Cold War. Russia has certainly been expanding its political muscle and influence in magnifying ethnic tensions in countries that hope to join the European Union. And Bosnia and Herzegovina is one of those. Furthermore, with Bosniaks/ Muslims turning their gaze firmly towards Ankara and Istanbul, with the EU reviving its dormant aims for enlargement through the consolidation of Europe platform, security risks to NATO members are accentuated.

When a country elects a president, or members of presidency as is in BiH case, it is not usually the case that the candidates include those whose stated aim is to break the country apart. But, in BiH, it happened – Serb leader Milorad Dodik has made it his career to break up BiH and join the Serbian Republic to Serbia. Russia/Putin stands behind him firmly in such a path. The situation bears distant echoes of Ukraine, where Russia originally agreed that Kiev could join the European Union — though not NATO — and then changed its mind, leading to the revolution that prompted Moscow to annex Crimea and foment secession in eastern Ukraine.

The biggest winner of the elections seems to be Dodik, who will command majorities in both the Serb Republic and the Serb delegation in the joint parliament. Dodik and his party have been the dominant political force in the Serb Republic since 2006, at threatening to secede from Bosnia.

“My first priority will be the position of the Serb people and of the [Serb Republic],” Dodik said in his victory speech. During the campaign, he argued that Bosnia is “not a state,” while calling its capital of Sarajevo a “foreign territory.”

Reinforced from Serbia and Russia, Dodik’s inflammatory words are now a clear threat and the Dayton Agreement is looking more fragile than ever before.

With Donald Trump’s putting America first path, which tends to leave the impression of a neo-isolationism, it would appear that the U.S. has, on that path, thinned its former muscle as a policeman in the South-East Europe (Balkan) region. The alarming consequences of this, particularly for Croats in BiH, are perhaps that Russia and Turkey have taken advantage of the U.S. retreat to reassert themselves in old spheres of interest. Furthermore, the virility (or relative lack of it) in Croatia’s leadership’s support for Covic’s election campaign would easily place that support into cruising along with Russia waters. Vladimir Putin has backed populists across the Balkans to counter the expansion of NATO and the European Union. Turkey’s Recep Tayyip Erdogan showed up in Bosnia recently during his presidential election campaign, embracing Bosnia as his own. The EU, meanwhile, has been pouring in money, though the carrot of membership and is coming up with a road map for expansion using consolidation as its main mechanism.

The competition with Russia is sowing and activating fresh instability in a region still emerging from the vicious war of 1992-95. Bosnia’s complicated constitutional framework, along with unresolved internal tensions, makes it susceptible to Russian efforts to wield its influence to transform Bosnia-Herzegovina. Political and intellectual elites in the Serbian Republic entity have served Moscow’s cause by promoting Russia within the entity as an alternative pathway to development. This has so far made Euro-Atlantic integration impossible for Bosnia-Herzegovina.

New particles of instability are filling the skies above the region every day and, in Bosnia and Herzegovina, threatening more than ever the preservation of Croats as equal people alongside Serbs and Bosniaks. The idea of a Croat entity within BiH is gaining more and more justified ground. It is beginning to emerge as possibly the only option for self-preservation, regardless of the fact that Croats in BiH have spent decades post-Dayton Agreement in compliant agreement to make it work and despite being increasingly discriminated against and belittled within the Federation with Bosniaks, further compounded by the likewise antagonistic Serb Republic entity. Ina Vukic

On High Alert – Croats of Bosnia and Herzegovina

 

Slaven Raguz
President
Croatian Republican Party
Bosnia and Herzegovina

With October 7th general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) approaching fast, preparations have entered into their final phase after all running political parties and independents have submitted their full candidates’ lists to the Central Election Commission (CIK), which among other things verifies candidates. This election comes in the middle of the country’s worst crisis since the 1992-1995 war and may not even lead to the establishment of new governments on all levels due to the broken election law and the competition among local political rivals is fierce, perhaps more fierce than ever.

Given that the BiH Constitution guarantees composition of BiH as a conglomerate of equals, i.e. three constitutional ethnic peoples (Bosniak, Croat and Serbs) and given that the equality status has not so far in practice been afforded to or asserted by the Croats the fierceness of electoral competition naturally takes the battle of asserting Croat’s rights to the highest of levels. It is also a justified high level as Bosniaks keep pursuing the lines of electing Croat representatives «for Croats», clearly towards the agenda of keeping Bosniak superiority over Croats to the level of keeping alive the possibility of renewed conflict. Then, senior officials from the Republika Srpska (Serbian Republic) entity are still denying the federation’s statehood and advocating eventual secession.

The backdrop to BiH crisis and asserting the ethnic equality guaranteed by its Constitution is charged with strong political currents within BiH when it comes to international influence. On the one hand, there is the current espousing of Russia’s prominence in BiH and while Russia’s encroachment in the Balkans is widespread, it’s most pronounced in Republika Srpska, where denial of its 1990’s genocide remains a prominent political weapon. But, regretfully, the Federation (made up of Bosniaks and Croats) also shows strong leaning towards Russia. Current Croat leader in Presidency of BiH, Dragan Covic of Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) party is aligning himself with Russia and Republika Srpska. Although campaigning for Croats’ asserting equal power in BiH, Covic seems to have taken his rhetoric to the extreme nationalist levels that appears a convenient (to him) lip service, instead of sticking to equality of all peoples as a measure of justice; the only measure for future success of BiH. The Bosniaks are and have been pressing on with their allegiance to Turkey and other Muslim forces, thereby significantly increasing Turkey’s involvement in the country. Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, wants Bosniaks to recall that their country was once part of the Ottoman Empire!

Personally, Russia’s Vladimir Putin and Turkey’s Erdogan have oscillated between warm friendship and heated rivalry over the 15 years the two men have held power in Moscow and Ankara. What they now share is resentment of the West − Mr. Putin’s Kremlin has been locked in a sanctions war with the United States and the EU, while Mr. Erdogan believes some Western leaders supported a 2016 coup plot against him − as well as a desire to redraw the international order.

Bosnia and Herzegovina has become their “new” playground and the matter of equality of Croats there is their “sacrificial lamb”. It’s all about their own power and influence, it’s not about enforcing the BiH Constitution and spirit and deed of the 1995 Dayton Accords.

Croats in Bosnia and Herzegovina, still in a subordinate position to the Bosniaks in the Federation, are at these upcoming general elections, once again, in the sharp focus of disappearance or oblivion.

On the street level, the rational reasoning that prevails is that the country must be organised so that it can stimulate the enhanced culture and education that are important for the identity of each of the three ethnic components.

If the concept and backbone of Dayton Accords are to survive, the building of such a Bosnia-Herzegovina is a moral imperative for all its people and nations seeking to remove existing iniquities and realise their individual and common good. International help, especially from the United States and the European Union, would appear indispensable for the realisation of this aim at this time of crisis and foreign interference from Russia and Turkey.

More than 70 parties and scores of independent candidates are set to take a part in the run for positions in the next parliament to be moulded through the results of October 7 general elections. The old worn out phrase when it comes to general elections race there that “the greatest surprise is that there is no surprises” could in fact be toppled this time around when it comes to political parties/candidates representing Croats of BiH.

Croatian Republican Party BiH logo

The Croatian Republican Party, formed in 2014 and mainly active on local government levels has now registered some 70 candidates across different cantons/electoral districts.

Acting with Christian-democratic and right-centre principles the Croatian Republican Party (HRS) of Bosnia and Herzegovina is headed by Slaven Raguz; a seasoned politician determined to achieve that for which HRS is advocating: respect for the legitimacy of the will of all people, not only the Croat but of people from all ethnic backgrounds who live in BiH. Furthermore, the HRS drives home the determination that only Croats have the right to elect their own representatives, even if they choose their representatives wrongly.

In a published statement, August 6, 2018, Slaven Raguz, among other things states: “The exclusive aim of our politics is the entry into the system of government so that, within 4 years, we can send onto the scrap heap of history all of you mental communists who have dispersed us all over the world with your arrogant, greedy, selfish and blind politics. We are not certain if we will succeed, as you have privatised even the electoral process, but one thing is certain – despite everything we will not stray from our course.

These are the kind of determination and dedication to Croats’ rights in BiH that are needed – absolutely. A great deal of the current sub-ordinance suffered by Croats in BiH and shocking inequalities are due to the fact that Croat official leaders in BiH have been and are deeply brushed with the communist mindset that has no room for full assertion of Croats’ rights. It’s akin to a “Men’s Club” for favours and deals which have everything to do with the individual leader and nothing with the people/nation.

The position of the Croat member of the BiH Presidency, Dragan Covic, has triggered in past months a lot of discussion about changes to the Electoral Law (as found necessary by the Constitutional Court some 20 months ago). The problem is that Bosniak voters elect the Croat member and this needs to change. Covic (HDZ) is a candidate in these elections, however, his campaigning for Croat rights and equality appears more like an agenda with ulterior motives than a true dedication to the status of Croats in BiH. Judging by his past performance, his allegiance to Russia and friendship with Serbian Republic’s Milorad Dodik he cannot be trusted to deliver for Croats.

The current political climate in BiH when it comes to Croats appears not to be about Croats or the HDZ in BiH, despite Covic’s loud rhetoric about Croats’ rights, but about Dragan Covic and ensuring there can never be another challenge to him. It appears as a personality cult building assisted by Russia and Serbian Republic.

This is an incumbency agenda masquerading as a collective rights protection agenda. The same stuff communist Yugoslavia was awash with!

Furthermore, the other loud candidate for Croats in BiH in the Democratic Front’s leader Zeljko Komsic whose scandalous history with Social Democrats, former communists, and allegiance with Bosniaks, on whose votes he appears to depend significantly, also leaves no trust nor hope for Croat equality rights in BiH.

With Covic and Komsic in the electoral matrix one can clearly see Russia and Turkey competing for power and influence in BiH and its future.

The question that could be asked is whether the current political impasse in Bosnia and Herzegovina has the potential to become the ultimate litmus test for the fragile political setup and lead to an outbreak of renewed hostilities. Certainly, if a new government is not formed after the elections the scenario would lend itself to a total breakdown of the social and political system. The physical prelude to such a breakdown would inevitably be the inability to pass the budget (due end of March 2019), which in turn would lead to inability to pay out pensions and public sector salaries… What mechanisms and skills would be needed to prevent such a breakdown may yet be a plot that’s unfamiliar to all.

It does appear, though, that if the seats delegated to Croats are won by “right wing” parties, particularly those truly dedicated to Croats’ rights of equality as well as the rights of other Constitutional ethnic groups, placing each on equal footing, who, like the Croatian Republican Party, oppose the political trails Covic and Komsic are taking, there won’t be a conflict or an exacerbation of its possibility in BiH. Ina Vukic

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