Fears of ethnic tensions grip Bosnia

An assumed saviour for Croat ethnic identity versus a saviour for all of Bosnia and Herzegovina (BiH) who happens to be a Croat — this is the new political fault-line in the racially tense country. For a country with a tripartite presidency to represent each of the three major ethnic groups — Bosniak, Serb and Croat — the upheaval about who is justified to represent the Croats has drawn further divisive lines after its eighth general election on October 7. BiH declared independence from the erstwhile Yugoslavia in 1992, which triggered a secessionist movement by the country’s Serbs, leaving 1,00,000 people dead. The Dayton Accords ended the ethnic war in 1995, but created a three-member presidency to appease each of the three ethnic groups, and two Prime Ministers for the country’s two entities — the Federation (Bosnia and Herzegovina) and the Republic of Srpska. In the Federation, two members are elected to represent Bosniaks and Croats and one is chosen to represent the Serb-dominated Republic of Srpska. The latest crisis was triggered by the victory of Željko Komšić of the Democratic Front, a moderate leader, to the Croat presidency over the nationalist candidate Dragan Čović of the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). Mr. Čović and his supporters claim Mr. Komšić, who advocated strengthening Bosnia’s unity, won with support from Muslim Bosniaks and that he doesn’t represent the Croats. Mr. Čović is now pushing for a change in the Election Law. Political analyst Jasmin Mujanovic wrote that Mr. Čović had “styled himself as the lone European among a horde of Balkan brutes, championing a beleaguered minority”. Mr. Čović also wanted to turn western Herzegovina into a Croat-majority autonomous entity. Mr. Čović, an engineer, was an avowed Communist in the 1980s, but was drawn to his Croat and Catholic roots in 1992. After the war, he gained a senior position within the HDZ party, but has often faced allegations of corruption. Mr. Komšić, on the other hand, is known as the Croat who defended Sarajevo when it was under siege during the war. A lawyer by profession, he joined the Social Democratic Party, which was seen as a representative of all ethnic groups, but he later floated the Democratic Front. He served as the Croat member of the presidency from 2006 to 2014. “The election showed that the country was asking for something different than the usual politics of power, but Komšić is not politically skilled,” said Gordan Duhacek, a Zagreb-based journalist. Precedence of ethnicity At the heart of the problem is the electoral framework itself, in which ethnicity takes precedence over representation. Those cheering Mr. Čović are people who hail convicted war criminals as heroes, said Mr. Duhacek. As soon as the results were out, candles were lit in the tourist town of Mostar, in the Herzegovina region, to protest Mr. Komšić’s win . “The Dayton Accord created a country that doesn’t work, but the problem is that nobody is able to agree on how to change the Constitution,” said Mr. Duhacek. The possibility of a third entity (for the Croats) is unlikely, and Mr. Komšić is viewed as someone who would prevent this from happening. The country continues to sway between moments of Yugo-nostalgia because of the relative economic equanimity back then, and moments of looking towards a capitalist framework for development. But even the future is uncertain with youth unemployment as high as 40% and young population fleeing into northern Europe, seeking economic opportunities

Source : https://www.thehindu.com/todays-paper/tp-international/fears-of-ethnic-tensions-grip-bosnia/article25350386.ece

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