21/04/2002 - Results
The nationalists are the great victors in the presidential and general elections that took place in Bosnia Herzegovina on 5th October. The Bosnians took no notice of the orders issued by the international community requesting them to turn to the future and to vote in favour of the candidates who belonged to the reformist parties. A weak majority of the electorate turned out to vote (54.9% i.e. the weakest turn out since the end of the war in 1995). Participation was 10 points higher during the last elections on 11th November 2000 (64.4%).
The three main nationalist parties took the lead in all of the institutions that the Bosnians were renewing, ie the collegial Presidency and the Parliament of the Republic of Bosnia Herzegovina on the one hand, and the individual Parliaments of each of the two entities (the Federation of Bosnia Herzegovina and the Serb Republic) on the other.
The three seats in the collegial presidency that were previously occupied by reformists have returned into the hands of the nationalist candidates. These are:
Sulejman Tihic, 51 years old, Muslim, leader of the Democratic Action Party (SDA) since October 2001 in replacement of Alija Izetbegovic, with 27.8% of the vote,
Mirko Sarovic, 46 years old, Serb, member of the Democratic Serb Party (SDS), former President of the Serb Republic between 2000 and 2002 with 38.3% of the vote.
Dragan Covic, 46 years old, Croat, member of the Democratic Croat Community (HDZ) former Finance Minister and deputy Prime Minister of the government of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina between 1998 and 2001 with 64.6% of the vote..
The three major nationalist groups (SDA, SDS and HDZ) also dominate the Chamber of Representatives of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the country's Central Parliament as well as the Chamber of Representatives of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina and the National Assembly of the Serb Republic. In the Central Parliament the SDA is the leader with 32.5% of the vote with 28 seats reserved for the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina, the SDS dominated the election with 36.8% of the vote winning 14 seats for the Serb Republic. In the Chamber of Representatives of the Federation the SDA won 33.3% of the vote ahead of the HDZ (17.5%). Finally in the National Assembly of the Serb Republic, the SDS, leads with 33.5% of the vote followed by the Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) who won 27.4% of the vote.
Dragan Cavic, the Serb nationalist, member of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS) was elected President of the Serb Republic. The day after the elections the new President declared that his party was going concentrate on reorganising the Serb Republic's army, joining the WTO and bringing Bosnia-Herzegovina closer to the European Union.
However none of the nationalist groups is able to take control of the assemblies alone and each will have to form a coalition with other parties, that are possibly more moderate. Hence in the Serb Republic, the Serb Democratic Party will certainly form an alliance with the Independent Social Democrat Party (SNSD) who won 28.9% of the vote. The SDA, for its part will have to ally itself with the Bosnia Herzegovina Party (SBiH), the reformist movement that came second, since the Social Democrat Party (SDP) excluded any alliance with the nationalists.
Paddy Ashdown, the High Representative for the UN in Bosnia Herzegovina tried to minimise the impact of this nationalist success. "Some will say that nationalism strengthens a country. I can assure you that this is not true", he declared once the results had been announced. He believes that the results should not be interpreted as support for the nationalist movements but "as a rejection of the out going moderate parties."
The majority of Bosnians did express their discontent with the Alliance for Change that had been in power since the elections on November 11th 2000. This 10 reformist party coalition that presented itself to the electorate in a dispersed manner did manage to win a few battles particularly in the financial area and succeeded in winning back value for the image of Bosnia Herzegovina amongst the international community. This led to the country's integration into the Council of Europe on 24th April. However the Alliance failed to impose real reforms in the economic and social areas and also in terms of privatisation.
There is still much to do in Bosnia Herzegovina in order to get the country, that was bled dry by war, back on its feet again. The Dayton Agreements put an end to that war but they did not manage to throw down the real foundations of a State, and seven years later, true national reconciliation still has not been completed.