The main Bosnian Serb opposition party, the Serbian Democratic Party, SDS, nominated party leader Vukota Govedarica as its candidate for president of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serbian-dominated entity in elections this autumn. The 41-year-old leader of the Serbian Democratic Party from the pro-EU Alliance for Changes is positioning himself as the catalyst to end the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats’ nearly 12-year-long hold on power.
After several hours of discussions on Saturday, the Serbian Democratic Party, the strongest member of Republika Srpska’s opposition Alliance for Changes, announced party leader Vukota Govedarica as its candidate for president of Bosnia-Herzegovina’s Serbian-dominated entity in elections this October.
“I feel a great responsibility in front of every person in Republika Srpska who wants to live freely,” Govedarica said at a press conference on Saturday. “My job is to free RS [Republika Srpska] from the occupation of the SNSD [Alliance of Independent Social Democrats] and their boss [President Milorad Dodik].”
Other contenders for the Alliance’s nomination included Bosnian Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister Mirko Sarovic and Mico Micic, mayor of the eastern Bosnian town of Bijeljina.
Govedarica, who has headed the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) since 2016, said he plans to base his campaign on a fight “against crime and institutional corruption,” which he described as “widespread.”
“I am ready to make changes,” he said. “If we are to be like SNSD, may God not let us win.”
The Alliance for Changes charges that the Moscow-friendly Dodik and his nationalist SNSD, in power since 2006, are pushing Republika Srpska toward dictatorship and international isolation, while also entangling it in rampant corruption.
The SNSD, which heartily rejects such criticism, has not yet announced its own candidate for this October’s presidential elections. At this point, Prime Minister Zeljka Cvijanovic is the most likely SNSD candidate for president, say BIRN sources within the party. They caution, though, that no final decision has been made.
“Cvijanovic has a lot of opponents in the party, and many people would not like to see her as a candidate,” one source said. “The president [Dodik] has not yet decided. I guess we will have to wait.”
Outgoing President Milorad Dodik, who must step down this year after two terms as head of Republika Srpska, intends to run for Bosnia-Herzegovina’s tripartite presidency this year.
In this race, he will face Mladen Ivanic, the current Serb member of the presidency, the SDS’ Govedarica confirmed. Ivanic’s Party of Democratic Progress is a member of the opposition Alliance for Changes.
The Alliance’s choice of Goverdarica, however, does not mean that all is now clear about the choices in this year’s elections.
President Dodik was expected to run for the Serb seat on the state presidency as a candidate representing Republika Srpska’s current ruling coalition (Alliance of the Independent Social Democrats, the Democratic People’s Alliance and the Socialist Party). On February 23, however, he announced that his own party, the coalition’s engine, would run candidates for both the Serb-member of the state presidency and for president of Republika Srpska.
At the same time, though, one member of the entity’s ruling coalition, the Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS), has said it is ready to name its own candidate for one of these posts.
Political analyst Srdjan Puhalo sees that as a sign that DNS is trying to increase its strategic value within the ruling coalition. “They will, probably, give up their candidacy, but in exchange for some other positions . . . as always,” he commented.
Dodik said he would address the issue of the state presidency with the DNS during coalition talks announced for next month.
“We'll deal with DNS. Everything will be fine. Please do not worry, sleep well. As you can see, there is no problem,” he told media on Friday.
Danijel Kovacevic , Banja Luka