Politics since Dayton

Ethnic nationalist parties thrived after first post-Dayton elections in 1996, presenting victories to the SDS in the Republika Srpska, SDA among Bosniaks, and HDZ among Croats in the Federation. Social Democratic opposition parties were again fragmented in elections in 1998. Republika Srpska elected a hard-line nationalist, Nikola Poplašen, for president.

International efforts shape the political landscape

In 1999, with considerable international support, a single Social Democratic Party (SDP) was formed. In March, the High Representative fired Poplašen.

Political shift among Bosniaks temporary
Zlatko Lagumdzija, Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, addresses the UN General Assembly Sept. 14, 2002. (© AP/Wide World Photo/David Karp)

Zlatko Lagumdzija, Foreign Minister of Bosnia and Herzegovina, addresses the UN General Assembly Sept. 14, 2002. (© AP/Wide World Photo/David Karp)

In the municipal and general elections in 2000, the new SDP won around the same share of the vote as the SDA in the Federation. SDP leader Zlatko Lagumdžija became Foreign Minister, and in July, Prime Minister of Bosnia-Herzegovina. When SDA leader Izetbegović  stepped down from the presidency in October 2000, international observers hoped Bosniaks would shift from nationalism to a multicultural vision. However, the 2002 general elections saw the SDA regain its leading position among Bosniak voters. Turnout was low, and the SDA capitalized on popular dissatisfaction with the incumbent SDP’s attempts at reform.  

Nationalism among Bosnia's Croats and Serbs

In the 2000 elections the SDS and HDZ returned to power. Among followers of both parties, opposition to Dayton ran high. The HDZ organized a referendum on Croat status in the Federation, despite UN warnings that this was illegal. In 2001, furthering the same policy, HDZ leader Jelavic and member of Bosnia’s tripartite presidency convened a Croat assembly in Mostar and declared regional autonomy. The High Representative immediately dismissed him from office.

2002 first locally-run elections

The SDS and HDZ defeated their non-nationalist rivals again in the 2002 general elections. These were the first post-Dayton elections not organized by the OSCE. Despite the persistent electoral power of divisive nationalism and low voter turnout, the election process was considered free, fair and successful.

2004 local elections

Nationalist sentiment in Bosnian politics remained strong in the 2004 local elections. Voters opted for one of the three main nationalist parties in 99 out of 122 municipalities.

2006 elections

The Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) emerged as the most powerful political party in Republika Srpska, while the Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SzBiH) emerged as the winner within the Federation. The main nationalist parties – the Serb Democratic Party (SDS), the Croat Democratic Union of BiH (HDZ) and the mostly Bosnian Muslim Party for Democratic Action (SDA) – saw their electoral support decline.

2008 local elections

The nationalist parties again won local elections in 2008. Low voter-turnout in the urban areas, considered more supportive of the multi-ethnic parties, contributed to this outcome.

2010 elections
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Zeljko Komsic (BiH Presidency website)

B

Bakir Izetbegovic (BiH Presidency website)

The 2010 presidential and parliamentary were the second to be entirely administered by BiH authorities. The OSCE and the Council of Europe monitors assessed the elections in line with commitments and international standards for democratic elections, although certain areas required further action. The Presidium election resulted in wins for Željko Komšić (Croat) from the SDP, Bakir Izetbegović (Bosniak) from the SDA, and Nebojša Radmanović (Serb) from the SNDP. In the House of Representatives, the SDP emerged as the leading party in BiH. The SNSD emerged as the winner in the Republika Srpska.

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Nebojsa Radmanovic (BiH Presidency website)

 

The election produced a divided political landscape without a coalition of a parliamentary majority. An agreement was finally reached on 28 December 2011 between the six political parties: the Social Democratic Party (SDP), the Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ), the Croatian Democratic Union 1990, the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), and the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD). Vjekoslav Bevanda, a Bosnian Croat, became Prime Minister.


Vjekoslav Bevanda (public source)

Vjekoslav Bevanda (HDZ)

 

COE

BiH joined the Council of Europe in 2002.

EU

BiH and the EU began talks on a Stabilization and Association Agreement (SAA) in 2005.

U.S.-hosted talks with Bosnian leaders in Washington in 2007 failed to achieve agreement on constitutional reform and unification of Bosnia’s police forces. The U.S. proposal for reduction of regional powers gained Bosniak agreement, but Bosnian Serb leaders rejected any change in existing constitutional arrangements.

In April 2008, Bosnia’s Parliament adopted police reform legislation that satisfied watered-down EU conditions for signing the SAA. The EU accepted reforms involving more effectiveness, financing from a joint budget, and less political influence. BiH signed the SAA in June 2008. The SAA was ratified in 2010, but it is still not in force. EU trade relations with BiH are governed by the Interim Agreement.

NATO

BiH joined NATO’s Partnership for Peace in 2006.

The 2008 Bucharest NATO Summit welcomed BiH’s decision to develop an Individual Partnership Action Plan and invited it to begin an intensified dialogue on the range of issues relating to membership.

In 2010, NATO invited BiH to join the Membership Action Plan (MAP) with one important condition: the first Annual National Program under the MAP would only be accepted once immovable defense property was registered as BiH state property, for use by the country’s defense ministry.

The 1992-95 Bosnian war and the search for justice
ICJ Ruling on BiH complaint of genocide

The International Court of Justice ruled in 2007 that Serbia (as the successor to the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia) had not committed genocide during the Bosnia war, responding to charges first made by BiH in 1993. The ICJ found that Serbia did violate its obligation to prevent genocide at Srebrenica, and its obligation to transfer Mladić to the Hague Tribunal. The ICJ added that Serbia should transfer wanted individuals to the Tribunal. The Court stated that its findings constituted appropriate satisfaction, and did not provide for any compensation to BiH.

Karadžić and Mladić arrested
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Radovan Karadzic on trial in The Hague (Courtesy of the ICTY)

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Radko Mladic on trial in The Hague (courtesy of the ICTY)

Former Bosnian Serb president Karadžić, wanted by the Hague Tribunal for genocide, was arrested by Serbian authorities in Belgrade in 2008 and quickly transferred to The Hague for trial. General Mladić, also wanted for genocide, was arrested in Serbia in 2011 and extradited to The Hague for trial. 

Hague Court on Croat actions during the 1992-95 war
"Joint criminal enterprise" engaged in ethnic cleansing
Back row from left: Bosnian Croats Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric prior to their judgment at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, May 29, 2013. Back row from left: Bosnian Croats Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric prior to their judgment at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, May 29, 2013.

Back row from left: Bosnian Croats Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric prior to their judgment at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, May 29, 2013. Back row from left: Bosnian Croats Jadranko Prlic, Bruno Stojic, Slobodan Praljak, Milivoj Petkovic and Valentin Coric prior to their judgment at the Yugoslav war crimes tribunal (ICTY) in The Hague, Netherlands, May 29, 2013.(VOA News)

The Hague Tribunal convicted six former Bosnian Croats for murder and other serious crimes during the 1992-95 Bosnian war, noting that the crimes were part of an ethnic cleansing campaign in Bosnia planned and coordinated by the neighboring state of Croatia.  The Court's judgment said that then Croatian President Tudjman and defense Minister Susko, both now dead, had engaged in a joint criminal enterprise to force Muslims out of mixed areas of western Bosnia, and leave them populated by Croats.

OSCE online war crimes case map
A screenshot of the interactive War Crimes Case Map, developed by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. (OSCE)

A screenshot of the interactive War Crimes Case Map, developed by the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina. (OSCE)

The OSCE Mission in BiH has launched an online case map of war crimes verdicts in Bosnia at the state, entity and  Brčko District levels. Since 2003, 140 war crimes cases have been completed, with another 1,200 to be processed.