It is increasingly certain that Bosnians and Herzegovinians will go to the polls this fall. After the political vicissitudes, the budget of Bosnia and Herzegovina is one step closer to adoption, and the Central Election Commission is ready to start the technical preparation of the elections as soon as the money is available. Judging by that, BiH is expecting a stormy summer and a hot political autumn in the coming months, despite the pandemic, which affects all spheres of life.
Although these are local elections, many believe that they are always a clear indicator of political trends that will be crucial in the next general elections, while there are those who claim that local elections are a story in themselves. Ahead of the final decision on the date of the elections, we analyze the circumstances in which the most important political parties are waiting for the local elections and what challenges and opportunities await them in the coming period.
Union for a better future
The Union for a Better Future will go to the local elections, ie the campaign, this year without the participation of the founder and president Fahrudin Radončić. Many will see this as a great challenge for the party that Radončić has been leading very successfully for more than a decade and from which he has made an unavoidable, pro-Bosnian, political factor at all levels of government in BiH (Union for a Better Future). However, such a decision can be an incentive for the local branches of SBB, which are proving to be very active and organized, to prove themselves in the elections as a real alternative.
Radončić’s decision is in a way a message to political leaders that local elections must not be held hostage to high politics and ideological debates, but a democratic process in which citizens should choose those who will best and most efficiently solve their everyday problems.
Social Democratic Party
In recent months, Nermin Nikšić’s SDP has been going from problem to problem and will go to the local elections with the legacy of the failed attempt of the famous four from Sarajevo Canton.
Poor coalition policy and the choice of a partner for Nikšić are causing frequent protests at the top of the party, and they are preparing for the local elections in very tense relations.
Mostly, because the SDP no longer depends on its political strength or activity, but on the coalition partners of Our Party and the People and Justice, which is a great defeat for one of the strongest political parties in Bosnia and Herzegovina. Nikšić’s SDP now has to trade around three or four mayoral seats or council positions.
With the exception of Tuzla, the SDP has already lost the battle for local elections, if there are no tectonic disturbances.
The fact that in this analysis the only original party with a majority Croatian people is Dragan Covic’s HDZ speaks very clearly of the chances with which that party is going to the local elections. The only alternative worth mentioning to Covic’s candidates in the local elections may be several independent candidates in some local communities. But that will not change the fact that even after these elections, the HDZ will remain an unavoidable political factor. This is especially true of Mostar, where elections are expected after 12 years this year. Unless there are some big surprises, Covic can wait for the political autumn very relaxed.
Željko Komšić’s party could be described in sports terms as a specialist in one discipline – the general elections for the Presidency of BiH.
Local elections for the DF (Democratic Front) will be a big challenge, not to mention a problem. The lack of strong personnel in the base, the dispersion of votes, undefined local politics and the ideological basis for Komšić’s party are the biggest handicaps, so the DF will be satisfied with a low election result. It will be important for them to have councilors in as many places in the country as possible in order to achieve a better position later, through coalitions.
Serbian Democratic Party
With the arrival of Mirko Šarović at the head of the SDS, many expected certain changes in the policy of the party that inherits genocide and the achievements of war criminals. Individual departures from that policy, unfortunately for that party and its membership, do not make a spring, and the SDS will continue to count only on radical hardline votes. At the local level, this may be an advantage in certain environments over the SNSD, but it does not guarantee some major shifts.
Unlike the SDP, Predrag Kojovic’s party has a very clear focus on local, but also on every other election – Sarajevo. It is their greatest strength, but it is also their greatest weakness. As long as Our Party pursues a policy only on the Baščaršija-Marindvor route, it is not possible to expect the left to strengthen throughout the country. It is not excluded that Naša Stranka will continue to strengthen slightly in the city municipalities in Sarajevo, but mostly to the detriment of the SDP or some smaller parties such as Hadžibajrić’s one-time list. Certain conflicts and the abandonment of prominent members are an additional problem for Kojovic.
Dodik’s SNSD has been sovereignly ruling a smaller BiH entity for years. But always with one or two smaller partners who regularly cost Dodik dearly in political trade. Local elections are regularly a much bigger challenge for the SNSD than the general ones. This is especially true of the largest cities, Banja Luka and Bijeljina, where the opposition highlights strong candidates. Although it is difficult to expect young Stanivuković to be a stronger competitor in Banja Luka, Bijeljina Mayor Mićo Mićić and the newly formed party can expect a better result. SNSD is a relatively stable party and will enter the campaign from strong positions, which does not have to be a guarantee of success.
Local elections were regularly the hardest ground for the largest Bosniak political party. They generally compensated for the poor results in the general elections by winning mayoral seats in Bosniak-majority municipalities and cities, which many see as the basis of their political power. However, the SDA is running in these local elections with several serious scandals and old and new internal conflicts, despite some stabilization with the arrival of Bakir Izetbegović at the head of the party and some new faces at the top of the party. The announced change of generation is obviously too much of a risk for Izetbegović in an election year, and he will probably stick to key role staff.
For the SDA, the biggest challenge will be the city municipalities in Sarajevo and, in general, urban areas, where the main competitors, judging by the campaigns, are announcing the strengthening of positions. The SDA, unlike, say, the HDZ or the SNSD, will not have the luxury of going to the local elections in a relaxed manner. On the contrary, the SDA will have to fight fiercely for every mayoral and council seat. But it’s not that they don’t really have experience in that.
People and justice
Elmedin Konaković’s party has been in the election campaign for months in an attempt to impose itself as a political factor after they lost the Cantonal Government, which they received as a gift from the SDP and Our Party within the “four”. However, it will be extremely difficult for them, because they were actually blacklisted by the United States due to the anti-Semitic outbursts of their leader. Given that they were created as a derivative of the strongest radical wing of the SDA – obviously dissatisfied with Izetbegović’s leadership of the party – People and Justice, objectively, would have nothing to look for in the local elections.
However, the radical populism of Konaković’s party was given political legitimacy by Naša Stranka and SDP by the decision to enter a coalition with them. There is little chance that Konaković’s party will achieve a more serious result, but we have seen from the experience of elections in neighboring countries that often satirical (like Ljubiša Preletačević Beli, a comedian in the elections in Serbia), protests, as well as radical-political, incidents get a certain number votes of citizens who want to punish established parties in a certain way.