Sunday, 6 April 2014

Bosnia’s Election 2014 – The Republika Srpska Presidency

This is the second entry on the October elections - looking back to 2012's municipal elections to see if they suggest change or stability. 

Republika Srpska, the entity occupying much of the north and east of Bosnia Herzegovina, has a system of government including a legislative assembly and a directly elected President. Presidential powers include the proposal of the head of government, the granting of pardons, and putting forward candidates for the Constitutional Court.

The election for President is on the basis of the largest share of the vote, with no necessity for a run-off should no candidate secure more than 50 per cent. In 2010, Milorad Dodik, head of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), secured 51 per cent of the vote, with an alliance of other parties securing 36%.

The SNSD had something of a breakthrough in 2006, securing the entity Presidency and becoming the largest party in the assembly, falling just short of an absolute majority. As well as securing the Presidency again in 2010, they more or less maintained their strength in the assembly.

There was a point when Dodik was seen as something of a great hope by the international community – a voice of moderation in Republika Srpska, with a history of opposing Karadžić’s Serb Democratic Party (SDS) during the war. When I was last here in 2005, he was seen to be something of a shrewd political opportunist, using his own role in blocking police reforms to gain the upper hand over the SDS. More recently concerns have been raised over his own nationalist rhetoric as well as anti-democratic tendencies.

A new opposition alliance

Regarding the upcoming election, the main Republika Srpska opposition parties have already indicated that they will unite behind one candidate for October. This includes: the SDS, whose programme presents a populist, nationalist, conservative party, grounded in Orthodox Christianity, and committed to the collective rights of the Serb people; Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), whose programme encompasses all citizens in Republika Srpska as well as pressing for equality for Serb citizens in Bosnia’s other entity; and a relatively new political force formed from existing parties the People’s Democratic Movement (NDP). The latter presents itself as based on a humanism and looks to neighbouring states’ integration into Europe as a path to peace and stability, but sets this against the ‘ever problematic and exotic orient’.

Based on the direct election of municipal leaders (načelnici) in 2012*, my estimate of these parties’ relative strength compared to the SNSD puts them 6 per cent ahead, with 45 per cent of the vote. However whether a united position of the three proves to be more or less than a sum of its parts remains to be seen.

*In these elections the parties frequently stand in locally-defined coalitions. To calculate each parties individual strength, coalition votes were divided among members according to their overall relative strength in all seats where they stood independently. 

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