Political report - October 2000


"A very interesting but tragic era whose final act we are witnessing, has come to an end. Another era is coming, hopefully a better one and therefore less interesting."

This is how Alija Izetbegovic commented his departure from the Bosnian Presidency to a reporter from the Sarajevo magazine DANI. On 14th of October, Zivko Radisic took over his position, in accordance to a regular eight-month scheme. But, as I mentioned before, Izetbegovic decided to withdraw from the Presidency on that same day. And decided to stay active in his party SDA. Regardless of his physical and political situation, many had doubts about his decision. That is in accordance to Izetbegovic's much exploited statement over the last few years, about him thinking one thing in the morning and another in the afternoon. And to put it in that way, it was not said what part of the day it was that he made his decision. The only fact remaining is on October 14th 2000, ten years of his rule is to an end.

Izetbegovic was in the function every since his party won the first multi-party elections. But it must be said that Izetbegovic did not have the majority of votes in the 1990 elections. According to the votes, the true winner was Fikret Abdic, Izetbegovic's party colleague, who gave his seat to the "older and wiser" person. It is interesting that these two people will be seen as two greatest enemies in the later Bosnian war history. In the post-war period Izeybegovic's authority was much weaker. For at last two years he was a member of the Bosnian Presidency, together with Ante Jelavic and Zivko Radisic. Izetebgovic's place has been passed on to Halid Genjac, a SDA colleague, who used to be in the Parliament.

And Izetbegovic's ten years.... If I repeat the so often quoted SDA pre-election motto from the April elections - "10 most difficult years together". To tell the truth, it was very difficult to live in Bosnia for the last 10 years. Alija Izetbegovic will be remembered in history books as one of the most intriguing leaders at the end of the 20th century, in these parts of Europe. Some claim he is a hero and some are prone to counting his wrong moves. And there were many of those.

"The only kind of people I hate is traitors", continues Izetbegovic in the interview. "Sleep soundly, there will not be a war", division of B&H, Srebrenica, terrible social and economic situation...The list of complaints that Bosniaks send to the ex president would be too long. Did he actually betray his people?

In less than a year, Franjo Tudman, Slobodan Milosevic and Alija Izetbegovic left the ex-Yugoslavia political scene. One of them died, another was thrown down (partly) by those who supported him over the years, publicly or secretly. Izetbegovic retired before the first, the second of the combination of these two option happened to him. Just to mention, Mate Boban, the former leader of HDZB&H and Herzeg Bosnia is dead for several years and Radovan Karadzic is hiding, being a political castaway.

Judging from the above, the times of great nationalist leaders in ex Yugoslavia is passing away. In that sense, time, people and circumstances will show how true Izetbegovic's theses on the up coming era really is. Less interesting but better. We have time and people. Optimists believe that the circumstances in the region can, if not change, than improve, due to the leaving of those three people.

Whatever the case, it is a great pleasure to mention the names of those "leaders" in past tense after 10 years.

Kostunica visits BiH

Vojislav Kostunica, the newly elected President of FRY came to visit Bosnia and Herzegovina officially at the end of October. On that occasion he met with members of the Presidency - Zivko Radisic and Halid Genjac and the Minister of Foreign Affirs Jadranko Prlic. Interpreting the press statement, a naive reader might think that behind all this was a great wish for overcoming the 10 years of crisis between the two countries. And things are not really like that.

Many people claim that Kostunica did not really intent to visit Sarajevo. Which is not far from the truth. Or he did not have the intention of visiting Sarajevo this time. His route of Bosnian visit started and ended in Trebinje (Southeast Herzegovina), where he was to be present at the burial of the poet Jovan Ducic. The new Yugoslav president decided to leave his presidential duties at home and come to Trebinje as a fan of a "beautiful word". Still, a few days before his arrival to B&H, the High Representative Wolfgang Petritsch went to Belgrade. This was a reaction to protests of many Bosnian officials who disapproved of Kostunica's coming to Trebinje without coming to Sarajevo first. And that Petritsch's word is highly respected beyond Bosnian borders can be seen from the further development of the situation. In Trebinje, a UN helicopter met Kostunica which transported him to Sarajevo later on. And after the meeting he went back to Trebinje. If some consider this visit to be historical, others consider it to be humiliating and hypocritical, especially keeping in mind the relations between these two countries through the previous decade.

Still, whether for true beliefs of not, but the visit of Vojislav Kostunica to Sarajevo, represents a very important political step in the right direction, according to Izetbegovic's words. Izetbegovic's opinion is that Kostunica recognized territorial integrity and sovereignty of Bosnia and Herzegovina by his visit. Or he just showed once again, the real power of the International Community and the local hypocrisy. The president of Serb People's Union, Biljana Plavsic, also welcomed Kostunica's visit as an act which confirms that he will defend the Dayton agreement. In the survey performed by the Sarajevo daily magazine "Dnevni Avaz", 45% of people graded the Yugoslavian president's visit to Sarajevo as positive.

This visit and the meeting with the members of Bosnian state bodies is the first official meeting of the leaders of the two countries after 8 years.The last meeting took place in the summer of 1992 when current president Milan Panic visited Sarajevo that was already in the war. Regardless of the fact that the visit was utopian from the start. In June 1992 things went too far.

And that things are going back to "normal" can be seen from the fact that the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina gave orders to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to prepare a platform for negotiations on establishing the diplomatic relations with FR Yugoslavia. Negotiations on further "normalization" should start after the forming of the Yugoslav government.

At the meeting on 20th of October 2000, the Temporary Election Commission expressed serious worries since political parties are not fulfilling their obligation of respecting the General Frame Agreement for Peace in Bosnia and Herzegovina (GFAP), the behavior Codex for candidates and Rules and Regulations of the Temporary Election Commission.

TEC expressed their worries concerning actions, statements, slogans and notices during the political party's campaign which are not in accordance to the Codex of behavior of the political parties, that can be found in Rules and Regulations of the Commission, under which the November general elections are performed.

TEC reminds the political parties of their obligation to avoid expressions that could provoke or initiate violence or spreading of hate and also to avoid using any pictures, symbols or any other material that could have such effect. (Article No. 704). Certain number of cases that violated this Article has been submitted to the Election Appeal Sub-commission (EASC) and TEC will compile a list of possible additional violations that is to be submitted to TEC or EASC. According to this, attempts to initiate violence and hatred during the election campaign shall not be tolerated.

In that sense we should understand the news saying that the Assembly of Brcko District has adopted some changes of the criminal law which prescribes penalties of 1 to 5 years for those who publicly spread national hate and 3 months to 3 years for persons that publicly mock the state of Bosnia and Herzegovina or the Brcko District. This decision followed the recent demonstrations of high-school students in Brcko during which nationalistic and racist slogans were shouted, many facilities were demolished, eggs and vegetables thrown at persons with different political opinion... Recent demonstrations conceived by Serb-Bosniak clash have shown that evil spirits are still very much alive among people.

"Croats know who to vote for, Serbs know who to vote for... And you?" This was one of the pre-election SDA slogans in 1996. Today, 4 years later things have not changed a lot - "Everyone chooses their own. And you?" Obviously, SDA has nothing to offer but a primitive and low form of xenophobia. If the citizens of Bosnia and Herzegovina had been intimidated in 1996, they are definitely not intimidated today, or maybe they are but a lot less than in the past. Therefore the nationalist radicalism is growing. HDZ's "Determination or Extermination" and SDS's rising of chetnicism in Brcko clearly describe what I am saying.

According to the pre-election surveys, it is easy to assume the election results. Keeping in mind the potential election winners, there is still one open and interesting question concerning the future functioning of the Bosnian Presidency. Will the International Community try to re-arrange the current system of 8-month presidential rotation that started in 1998? Just to remind you, that same year another presidential election victory was almost certain for Alija Izetbegovic. The International Community used that to introduce the rules about the Presidency consisting of three members-three people, in order to avoid the dissatisfaction in Serb and Croat population in B&H. Also, they balanced the percentage of access to power of the three representatives of the three majority nations in B&H. Will it be sensible to keep this kind of Presidency until the year 2002 when its mandate ends? Especially if we keep in mind the fact that the complete structure of BH society shall be built on civil instead of national grounds. What is the point of having national presidency in that case?

In any event and before speculations, it is necessary to wait for the election results. For those who want to have more information regarding the election process-rules, web-pages of OSCE to BiH offer the most information.