Bosnia's main Serbian party, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, on Saturday re-elected its leader, Milorad Dodik, at a party congress in Eastern Sarajevo for another four years.
The SNSD also elected other key party bodies and adopted several declarations, setting out its long-term strategic orientation. One called for a referendum for the independence of Bosnia’s Serbian-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, RS, in 2018, unless Bosnia’s political and administrative settlement under the original 1995 Dayton peace accord is restored by then.
“Based on the results of the referendum, RS governmental institutions … would propose the peaceful dissolution [of Bosnia] and mutual recognition to the BiH Federation [Bosnia's other entity],” the declaration stated.
Bosnia's international overseer, the Office of the High Representative, OHR, reacted with a statement underlining that Bosnia’s two entities “have no right of secession from Bosnia and Herzegovina”.
The SNSD also adopted a declaration on economic development, which effectively ignores the “Compact for Growth” reform agenda prepared under EU auspices.
“In the implementation of economic reforms and speeding up the EU accession process, the SNSD is open to broad cooperation with all levels of authorities and international institutions. But it will not wait for the international community, or for the institutions of Bosnia and Herzegovina, to propose solutions to get it out of the crisis and improve the economy,” the declaration said.
A senior international official told Balkan Insight that SNSD’s separatist agenda, while not new, posed a threat to Bosnia’s stability.
“Dodik has lost power at state level and is close to losing it in the RS. He seems desperate and willing to do anything to stay in control,” the official claimed.
Two other key parties in Bosnia held congresses on Saturday.
The main Bosnian Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Union, held its own party congress in the southern city of Mostar and re-elected its president, Dragan Covic, for another four years.
The party called for the constitutional reorganization of Bosnia's mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation entity.
It suggests turning the current ten cantons into four regions, including the Sarajevo district. The HDZ has proposed this before, but international officials and Bosniak parties have rejected it as an effective division of the Federation and the creation of a separate Croat entity.
“We want to make changes to the internal setup of Bosnia and Herzegovina because organized like this, Bosnia and Herzegovina cannot survive,” Covic said in his speech.
Also on Saturday, the second-strongest Bosniak party, the Alliance for Better Future, SBB, held its congress in the northern town of Tuzla, where it re-elected its founder, the media and construction mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, as party leader for the next four years.
“The start of work of the new government is very bad and conflicts within the ruling coalition are visible,” Radoncic said.
The SBB is currently in opposition on all administrative levels, but could play more significant role in the future because of growing rifts among key parties in the ruling coalition at state level and in the Federation entity.
Relations are especially poor between the HDZ and the Democratic Front, DF, a civic-oriented party which, together with the HDZ, the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, and the block of Bosnian Serb opposition parties, has become the axis of ruling coalitions at state level, in the Federation entity and in several Federation entity cantons.
In addition to personal animosities between HDZ and DF leaders, the main stumbling block is the control of key public companies. While the SDA and especially the HDZ want to replace the current management of public companies to reflect latest elections results and new ruling coalitions – standard practice in Bosnia after past elections – the DF has rejected this, insisting that the current managements should complete their legal mandates.
To get their way, the SDA and HDZ have announced that at the Federation government session on Monday they will change the rules on the appointment of managers of public companies. However, DF officials have warned that if they are outvoted, they may leave the ruling coalition.
If the DF quits the coalition, it could cause a ripple effect and force the reorganization of ruling coalitions on almost all levels of government.