Bosnia rocked by new crisis over proposal to rename Republika Srpska

Bosnia rocked by new crisis over proposal to rename Republika Srpska
SDA leader Bakir Izetbegovic explains the party's initiative to have Republika Srpska renamed.
By bne IntelliNews January 24, 2019

A new political crisis erupted in the already highly unstable Bosnia & Herzegovina after the main Bosniak Party – the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) – announced that it will challenge the name of the Serb entity, Republika Srpska, before the constitutional court. 

The new conflict comes in an already very tense period as Bosnian politicians have been unable to form a ruling coalition and set up a parliament and government either at the state-level or in the Muslim-Croat Federation, since Bosnia held general elections in early October. It erupted right after talks on forming a coalition between the SDA and the main Serb and Croat parties fell through. 

Bosnia is comprised of two autonomous entities — the Federation whose population is mainly made up of Bosniaks (Bosnian Muslims) and Bosnian Croats, and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska. Each entity has its own parliament, government and president. The country also has state-level institutions.

The SDA said that it will challenge Republika Srpska’s name, claiming it is unconstitutional as it discriminates the other two ethnic groups living in the country – the Bosniaks and the Croats.

“Connecting the name of whatever to just one entity in the multiethnic community, such as BiH, according to the principle of ethnic privilege, is contrary to the Constitution of Bosnia and Herzegovina and the European Convention on Human Rights, which is superior to the Bosnian constitution,” the SDA said in the statement.

The Serb reaction came immediately. Milorad Dodik, the leader of Republika Srpska’s biggest party the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) and a member of the state-level tripartite presidency, said his party is ending all talks with the SDA and that the Bosniak party is launching a process that provokes unnecessary tension and will not succeed. He called the SDA’s initiative a provocation aiming to raise tensions in Bosnia.

Dodik threatened that Republika Srpska will take “rigorous measures” to defend itself if SDA goes further with the idea.

“We have all written laws allowing us to establish control over borders overnight. We just have to call a parliament [session] and we can take [this decision],” Dodik said.

He went even further, claiming that the SDA is intervening in the work of the judiciary, and used the opportunity to once again state that he does not recognise the state-level judicial institutions and to accuse foreign forces of interfering with their work.

Dodik, who has repeatedly threatened to call a referendum on Republika Srpska’s secession from Bosnia, said that the entity has elements of a state — territory, citizens and efficient authorities.

“According all international elements for classification of states this is it,” Dodik said.

Dodik called a meeting with all Serb parties, seeking a unified position.

The High Representative Valentin Inzko also reacted to the SDA’s initiative, calling it irresponsible and counter-productive. He called on all parties in Bosnia to sustain from further polarising rhetoric, reported.

Meanwhile, the Russian embassy in Bosnia called on the members of the Peace Implementation Council (PIC) to hold an extraordinary session and discuss the situation following the SDA’s initiative.

Some local politicians and analysts believe that the SDA’s idea only aims to divert attention from its unsuccessful attempts to find coalition partners and form a ruling majority. Although the party won the largest share of the vote in the October election, it was completely insufficient to form a government, at only around 25%.

The SDA made several unsuccessful attempts to find partners for a new coalition. The party ruled before the election along with three others but had numerous conflicts with its coalition partners and most of them seem unwilling to join forces with the SDA again.

Meanwhile, Dodik’s SNSD and the main Croat party, the Croatian Democratic Union of Bosnia & Herzegovina (HDZ BiH), have already signed a coalition agreement at all levels of power, and have formed the government in Republika Srpska.