Bosnia’s Municipal Elections 2000: Winners and Losers
Bosnia’s Municipal Elections 2000: Winners and Losers
Table of Contents
  1. Executive Summary
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans
Report 91 / Europe & Central Asia

Bosnia’s Municipal Elections 2000: Winners and Losers

The international community can draw a degree of comfort from the results of Bosnia’s 8 April 2000 municipal elections.

Executive Summary

The international community can draw a degree of comfort from the results of Bosnia’s 8 April 2000 municipal elections. Overall, the voting was free of violence and more free and fair than any previous election held in Bosnia. Nationalism may not be on the run yet—witness the strength of indicted Bosnian Serb war criminal Radovan Karadzic’s Serbian Democratic Party (SDS)—but moderate leaders are making inroads and increasing numbers of voters seem to be paying attention to their messages.

In Bosniak areas support shifted from the ruling Party of Democratic Action (SDA) to Haris Silajdzic's Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina (SBiH) and Zlatko Lagumdzija's moderate Social Democratic Party (SDP).  As a result, Silajdzic positioned himself as king-maker in numerous Bosniak majority municipalities, and as heir apparent to the ageing Alija Izetbegovic among the Bosniak electorate.

In Republika Srpska (RS) the victory of the nationalist hard-line Serbian Democratic Party (SDS) in 49 of 61 municipalities is troubling, given the newly passed RS law on local self-management which significantly weakened the RS central government and transferred sweeping powers to the municipalities. On the other hand, the surprising showing of Mladen Ivanic's Party of Democratic Progress (PDP) signals that the politically moderate Ivanic is becoming the most popular Bosnian Serb politician and is well placed to become the next prime minister of Republika Srpska.

In western Herzegovina a startling drop in voter turnout among the Croat electorate indicated displeasure with the ruling ultra-nationalist Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ). This, however, did not diminish the HDZ sweep of all Croat-majority municipalities. The emergence of Bosnian Croat moderates, made possible in theory by the success of the democratic forces in this year’s Croatian elections, was aborted by the OSCE’s refusal to postpone its electoral timetable.

The emergence of an ever-increasing democratic alternative, both in the Bosniak areas of the Federation and Republika Srpska, is encouraging and must be nurtured. The international community can take comfort in the electoral support accorded to those parties that represent a democratic alternative to nationalism.  Given time and the proper influences, these parties will gain a stronger foothold and eventually break the nationalist stranglehold on Bosnian political life, if the international community demonstrates the resolve to stay the course. Yet, the international community must not lose sight of the fact that for the next four years, the nationalists will still control the majority of Bosnia's municipalities.

Sarajevo/Washington/Brussels, 27 April 2000

Changing Dynamics in the Western Balkans

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Crisis Group expert Marko Prelec about the precarious situation in the Western Balkans, as Serb separatism in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and the frozen Kosovo-Serbia dispute continue to stoke regional instability.

The Western Balkans, a region defined in part by not being in the European Union, also contains several countries that were devastated by war in the 1990s. Now it faces new troubles, driven in part by the legacies of the old. Bosnia and Herzegovina is confronted with calls for secession in the autonomous Serb-dominated region, Republika Srpska, as well as the ongoing electoral grievances of its Croat minority. Meanwhile, efforts to resolve Kosovo’s dispute with Serbia over its independence have come to a standstill, leaving minority communities on both sides of the border vulnerable.

This week on War & Peace, Olga Oliker talks to Marko Prelec, Crisis Group’s Consulting Senior Analyst for the Balkans, about why ethnic tensions persist in the region and whether there is any risk of a return to conflict. They discuss the prospects for European integration, asking whether the promise of EU membership remains an effective incentive for resolving these longstanding disputes. They also consider what impact Russia’s invasion of Ukraine has had for stability in the Western Balkans, a region where painful memories of war are still very salient today.

Click here to listen on Apple Podcasts or Spotify.

For more of Crisis Group’s analysis, make sure to check out our Balkans regional page and keep an eye out for our upcoming report on the risk of instability in the Western Balkans.

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