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Bosnia

Capital Sarajevo
Time Zone CET (GMT+1)
Country Code 387
Mobile Codes 61,62,63
ccTLD .ba
Currency Bosnian Convertible Mark (1EUR = 1,96 BAM)
Land Area 51,129 sq km
Population 4 million
Language Bosnian, Croatian, Serbian
Major Religion Islam, Roman Catholicism and Orthodox Christianity

Assessing Bosnia’s Fifth Post-Dayton Local Elections

By Lana Pasic

Balkanalysis.com editor’s note: with US Secretary of State Clinton and EU foreign policy chief visiting Sarajevo today to urge for more reforms and inter-ethnic cooperation, we take a closer look at recent phenomena indicating shifting trends in the country’s political life.

Earlier this month, Bosnia held local elections for the fifth time since the war-ending Dayton Accords of 1995. In this insightful new article, Balkanalysis.com contributor Lana Pasic assesses the outcome of the voting and what it indicates for the current political mood in the country.

Election Facts

On the 7th of October 2012, the fifth local elections since the 1995 Dayton Agreement were held in Bosnia and Herzegovina. A little more than three million citizens registered to vote actually cast their ballots. The 56% voter turnout was 1% higher than during the 2008 elections, according to the Central Election Commission of BiH). According to the Anadolija agency, with 190 political parties registered for the elections, Bosnia and Herzegovina holds the world record for most political parties per capita- one party per 20,000 persons.

Altogether, 30,351 candidates competed for 135 municipal and five city mayoral posts, as well as for the representatives for municipal and city parliaments, according to the Central Election Commission of Bosnia and Herzegovina. The total cost of the election campaigning was estimated at 4.5 million euros, which is equivalent to 30,000 pensions in Bosnia.

The European Parliament’s delegation assessed the elections as generally peaceful and democratic. However, in certain municipalities, such as Celic, there were citizens’ protests and complaints, along with  claims of electoral fraud, reported Klix.ba.

Winners and Losers

Preliminary results showed a victory for the SDA and decline of the 2010 election winners. However, the winners of the 2012 local elections were the same parties which won the first multiparty elections in Bosnia in 1992- the Bosniak SDA, Croat HDZ and Serb SDS, and thus the same parties which led Bosnia into the war.

Seemingly, not much has changed in the country since then, considering that ethnic association remains to be a relevant election, and subsequently, voting strategy, even 20 years later. While moderate political parties pursuing multiethnic political manifestos, such as Nasa Stranka have recorded an increase in votes received, this has not been significant enough to translate into political power.

The results were somewhat surprising, although hardly ground-breaking. The “biggest loser” of this year’s elections seems to be Milorad Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) in Republika Srpska, as well as Zlatko Lagumdzija’s Social Democratic Party (SDP) in the Federation.

This was due, as some media evaluate, to unfulfilled promises (in the case of SNSD), and disappointment with leadership (in the case of SDP). Dodik’s party lost its majority in 26 municipalities, which is a tremendous decrease compared to the victory the party claimed during the 2008 local elections.

The leader of SNSD told media that he understood the message of dissatisfaction from the public and that from now on, many things will have to change within the party. It remains to be seen whether these changes will be done quickly enough for the party to recover before 2014 general elections.

What Do Voters Think?

In spite of the relatively high voter turnout, which sends a message that citizens are taking the responsibility to elect their representatives more seriously, the elections had plenty of paradoxes, in terms of both the results and votes cast.

In the municipality of Neum, for example, there was only one candidate for the position of mayor, and he unsurprisingly won 100% of the votes. On the other hand, in the municipality of Jezero, one candidate for the position of mayor won only one vote- presumably, he voted for himself, reported Naslovi.net). Additionally, in East Mostar, both, the elected mayor and his opponent won fewer than 100 votes. The legitimacy of such representatives could be called into question, as the mystery of ‘what happened’ to the other votes arises.

Citizens also demonstrated their dissatisfaction with the current political parties by casting votes for Bob Marley, Chuck Norris, Batman, the most popular Bosnianfootballer Edin Dzeko, the Ninja Turtles, the ‘Hordes of Evil,’ and characters from local comedy shows.

A number of electoral rolls also included entries such as “they are all thieves”, “all incompetent” and “I vote for love,” reported Klix.ba. Considering such election messages and the unusually high number of political parties, we have to wonder if voters in Bosnia indeed feel they have no other choice but to ‘commit electoral suicide’ by effectively cancelling out their votes.

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