Nationalists to dominate Bosnia's three-man presidency

Nationalists to dominate Bosnia's three-man presidency

Yahoo - World·2018-11-20 10:57

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Bosnia will inaugurate its three newly-elected presidents on Tuesday, with all eyes on Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik, who will be the first to take the helm of a government hobbled by ethnic divides.

The three presidents will rotate seats every eight months under the complex peace deal that ended Bosnia's 1990s war and split power between its three main groups: Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats.

In October voters chose nationalists to represent the first two communities, in a sign of how tribalism and ethnicity continue to shape politics more than two decades after the war.

Dodik, a pro-Russian politician who is sanctioned by the US, will be sworn-in alongside incoming Bosnian Muslim president Sefik Dzaferovic, who hails from the nationalist conservative SDA party.

They will be joined by the Croat president, Social Democrat Zeljko Komsic, an outlier among the two nationalists who has called for a "Bosnia of citizens" that would transcend communal divisions.

Yet Komsic is already facing attacks from the main Croat party that accuses him of betraying his people and now threatens to obstruct activity in parliament.

Few Bosnians are expecting major changes in a paralysed political system that has allowed corruption to flourish and stagnated the economy for years.

"There's nothing more to expect here," said Almir Korjenic, a 32-year-old applying for a work visa at the Slovenian embassy, summing up a widespread sense of political fatigue.

"(The politicians) fought each other before the elections to position themselves well after the elections and resume looting the country," he said.

- 'Remove the foreigners' -

Bosnia's unwieldy government is further complicated by two separate administrations in its highly-autonomous sub-regions: one for Serbs and one shared by Croats and Bosnian Muslims.

Dodik's elevation to the top office could mark another blow to the fabric of a country he has previously skewered as a "failed concept."

The firebrand led Bosnia's Serb-run half for over a decade and periodically threatened to hold a referendum on its secession.

Last year the US placed him on a blacklist for undermining the country's peace agreement.

The 59-year-old seemed to soften his tone slightly after he was elected to the national presidency, saying he wants to work with Bosnian Croats and Muslims "in the interest of all."

Political analyst Tanja Topic said the politician appeared to be making a "conciliatory gesture," though "it is still difficult to say whether Dodik will be constructive and whether he will work in the interest of the state."

On Monday Dodik repeated his demands to undo parts of the Dayton Peace Accords, including shutting down the office of the High Representative -- an international envoy that has been sent by the UN since 1995 to oversee the peace deal.

"My policy is not changing, it's just my workplace that's changing," he said.

Dodik has also called for kicking out the three international judges who sit on the Constitutional Court alongside the Bosnian Muslim, Serbian and Croatian judges.

"If we do not find an agreement to remove the foreigners... I do not know what else we could discuss," Dodik warned.

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