Municipal polls show some change in Bosnia

Submitted by martin on 8 December, 2020 - 2:49 Author: Len Glover
Irma Baralija

Above: Irma Baralija and her party Naša Stranka ("Our Party") have won a commitment to hold municipal elections in the divided Croat-Bosniak city of Mostar. They oppose communalism. But they are also avowed neoliberals.

As mentioned in Solidarity 572, the BiH municipal elections of 15 November showed some changes from previous voting patterns. Now, with the exception of Mostar (elections on 20 December), all results are in and more details can be added.

There were elections for mayors and assemblies in 143 municipalities (the municipality is the smallest local government unit in BiH). A total of 425 mayoral candidates stood for election, of which only 29 were women — and of those only four were elected. Clearly, there is a long way to go before women achieve anything like equality in BiH.

Anger about corruption resulted in many established politicians being unseated. In these mayoral elections, the SDA (Party of Democratic Action), the main party claiming to represent Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks) did badly, losing seven of its previous mayors and keeping 25. The party claiming to represent the Bosnian-Croat population, the Croatian Democratic Union of BiH (HDZBiH) gained one additional mayor but lost some key municipalities. The Serb nationalist SNSD (Alliance of Social Democrats) won a total of 41 mayors, but also suffered some major losses. It lost in Banja Luka to Drasko Stanivukovic of the PDP (Party of Democratic Progress), who is however as nationalistic as the SNSD.

As a very general observation, ethnically-based communalist parties held on to their rural votes but lost out elsewhere. In Sarajevo, the largest party is now People and Justice (Narodi i pravda), which took Sarajevo Centre and Novo Sarajevo from the SDA. It remains to be seen how different just its politics are from the SDA (from which it split on 12 March 2018). It describes itself as “centrist and conservative”.

As well as losing Sarajevo, the SDA lost in Tuzla (which has a Social Democratic Party mayor) and Zenica (an independent). The SDA still controls the largest number of municipalities in BiH, but it is now a largely rural party.

What will follow in the coming weeks is almost certainly a period of “horse-trading” as parties try to consolidate their positions. Although old communalist political loyalties appear to be unravelling, there is still no party which works to unite all communities on a socialist programme.

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