Leaders of Bosnia’s ruling parties averted political and financial disaster - literally on the stroke of midnight - by approving new state and Federation entity governments as well as Federation entity budget for 2015.
Administrative problems, procedural shortcomings and political squabbling had blocked the formation of new governments on different levels for a full half year after general elections last October.
Although Bosniak, Croatian and Serbian parties agreed a ruling coalition at state level and in the Federation entity by December, they needed three more months to work out the share of key posts at different levels.
The failure of the parties to agree on the formation of new governments threatened to further destabilize the economically troubled and ethnically divided Balkan country.
March 31 became the deadline for the formation of the state and Federation governments and for the adoption of the Federation budget for 2015.
Without a breakthrough, the Federation entity would have been left without financing and was in danger of bankruptcy, while the ruling coalition would have probably collapsed and the parties would have had to start negotiations anew.
March 31 started with more delays, confusion and uncertainties, as parliamentary commissions reviewed the candidates and party leaders burned phone lines, fine-tuning last-minute details.
Finally in the afternoon and evening hours of Tuesday, the pieces of this complicated, multi-layered jigsaw finally fell into place.
Bosnia’s state parliament first approved a new state government - the Council of Ministers - under the chairmanship of Denis Zvizdic, from the [Bosniak] Party of Democratic Action, SDA.
“Bosnia and Herzegovina should be a country of capable and efficient institutions, with a competitive economy, qualitative health (system), modern education and a successful people,” Zvizdic told parliament in his expose.
As soon as the new state government was confirmed, the President of the Federation entity, Marinko Cavara, nominated a new Federation government. The Federation assembly then confirmed the new government in a late-evening emergency session.
“I will focus exclusively on the measures and goals of economic policy which, with your support, I plan to carry out in this mandate,” the Federation's new Premier, Fadil Novalic, a businessman and member of the SDA, said in his address to the Federation assembly.
As soon as it was confirmed, the new Federation government held an emergency session to prepare a new entity budget. This was then approved by the the Federation assembly's two chambers, the House of Representatives and the House of Peoples, just before midnight.
While appointment of new governments and the adoption of the Federation budget have averted an immediate crisis, queations remain about the ability of the new governments to deliver the tough and unpopular reform agenda that confronts the country.
“What can we expected from them when difficult reforms start, if they needed half a year only to form new governments,” one disgruntled EU official told Balkan Insight.
Persistent political quarrels, personal mistrust and different – sometimes conflicting – ideologies and agendas will not make the process any easier.
Signs of the troubles to come were visible already during the hubbub on March 31.
The strongest Bosnian Serb party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, which is in opposition at state level but leads the government in the Serb-dominated entity of Republika Srpska, continued its boycott of the state parliament even during the confirmation of the new state government.
As SNSD deputy from the chamber's House of Representatives, Stasa Kosarac, said that as fas as his party was concerned, the new state government was “illegal” and the SNSD would never support it.
“What is happening today in the [state] parliament today is a complete circus,” he maintained.
The SNSD boycott will impede the work of the state parliament and block further preparations of the ambitious reform agenda prepared last year under EU auspices.
Opposition parties in the Federation also expressed scepticism about the prospects of the new Federation government.
“Not a single statement from the address of Premier Designate Fadil Novalic is backed up in the 2015 Federation budget,” Denis Gratz from the opposition Nasa Stranka [Our Party], remarked.
The Federation President, Marinko Cavara, said the new team deserved support, however. “The new members of the [Federation] government are neither the most capable nor the most beautiful ones, but at this particular moment, they were only possible ones. I hope that we will help our new government in resolving key problems,” he said.