Last weekend’s general elections in Bosnia & Herzegovina provided a number of surprises and controversies that will further complicate the political landscape in what is already one of the world’s most complex and fragile systems of government.
Held on 2 October, the general elections decided the make-up of the country’s Presidency as well as national, entity and cantonal governments. At parliamentary level, they were divided into the country’s two entities: the Federation of Bosnia & Herzegovina and Republika Srpska, whereas for the presidential elections, each of the three national communities elected a Presidency member.
The Serb-dominated Republika Srpska held its own Presidential elections, which is still contested between rival candidates (at the time of writing), though will likely see long-time strongman Milorad Dodik return to the role he left in 2018. In the Federation (FBiH), the leader of the country’s biggest party, Bakir Izetbegović, stunningly lost his seat as a Presidency member by almost 20% to social democrat outsider Denis Bećirović. The election process was mired in controversy due to last-gasp constitutional changes by the internationally appointed Office of the High Representative (OHR), which are said to favour the country’s Croat community at the expense of Bosniaks.
Overall, the elections have provided two key takeaways: firstly, they represent a strong showing of civic political candidates over hardline nationalists, in light of growing inter-ethnic tensions and political instabilities exacerbated by Russia’s war in Ukraine. Second, while the election provided no clear winners, there is one notable loser – Bakir Izetbegović.