Bosnia and Herzegovina likely to persist in deadlock over forming a central government



The deadlock in which Bosnia and Herzegovina has plunged since last October’s general elections is very likely to persist in the coming weeks, as negotiations over government formation are still in a deadlock. Three months after the polls, the political leaders of the country’s two federative entities are indeed preparing to hold yet another round of coalition-building talks on January 10. Members of the reformist coalition led by the Social Democratic Party (SDP - which registered the best results in the October voting) had previously refused to attend a similar meeting organized in Sarajevo at the end of December. In these circumstances, the other parties have warned that a subsequent absence would very likely worsen the post-election confusion and would further block the reforms that are set as conditions for the accession to the European Union.

Through the 1995 Dayton Agreement, Bosnia was divided on ethnic grounds between the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, each provided with its own political institutions. Meanwhile, the economic, fiscal and foreign policies remained in the competence of a weak central government. Bosnia was however left without central institutions since its powers completely succumbed in October. Two political blocks – the one formed around the SDP, headed by former Prime Minister Zlatko Lagumdzija, and that around the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) of Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik – have indeed failed in reaching an agreement. Dodik has been supporting the quick establishment of a central government and has recently accused the “arrogant SDP” of condemning the country to “a period of uncertainty”. He has also been criticising the SDP’s move to insist on an agenda “compiled from leftovers” from various failed reform proposals. This came as the SDP refused to negotiate if no agreement was found upon its reforms program.

The disagreements between the SDP and the SNSD are fuelled by different stances over the constitutional reform and the distribution of state assets, in other words, precisely the issues connected to the EU integration. While the EU wants Bosnia’s central institutions to be strengthened in order to facilitate reforms, Aleksandar Dzombic’s regional government in Republika Srpska – as approved on December 29 – openly expressed its opposition to any attempt to change the country’s constitutional structure at the expense of their entity’s autonomy.

Moreover, the political divide between the SDP and the SNSD, together with the other two main parties which would participate in the ruling coalition – the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) and the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ) – deepened as the latter maintained their strong ethno-nationalist character. Therefore, a crucial aspect worth being pointed out is that Bosnia’s current political deadlock is deeply rooted in its ethnic divisions. Therefore, more than fifteen years after the Dayton Agreement and the end of the 1992-1995 war that saw the country crumbling into a bloody ethnic conflict, the maintenance of this critical situation could indeed destabilize the already fragile relations between its populations.

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