The ruling coalition in the Federation of Bosnia (FBiH) has collapsed as one of the three parties, Democratic Front (DF), decided to quit the coalition. Personal issues, conflicting statements and short standing compromises have coloured the past few month’s cooperation between the three parties. The DF, a split-off of the Social Democratic Party (SDP) finally stumbled over a dispute over the appointment of managers for public companies and the regulation. The party opposed placing ministers in charge of appointments in public companies in fields under their responsibility.
Entity coalition falls apart
Ever since the 2014 elections, the coalition partners – the Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA), the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) and the DF– have been struggling to govern the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina (FBiH), the Bosniac-Croat entity of the country. On 5 June the two main coalition parties, SDA and the HDZ, insisted on changing a regulation into the entire government deciding on appointments to all companies. The DF disagreed as it said managerial changes should be made only to problematic companies. The crisis climaxed on a session in which SDA and the HDZ ministers outvoted the DF ones and changed the regulation, after which the DF decided to drop out of the coalition. Federation Prime Minister Fadil Novalic (SDA) said that behind DF’s disagreement was, in fact, a brutal struggle for control over these companies.
In a reaction to the withdrawal of the DF, HDZ leader Dragan Covic said that “the Federation government has been in crisis since the beginning. DF leader and former BiH’s President Zeljko Komsic said that “we keep trying to frame each other and agreements are not respected.” He urged the remaining coalition partners to replace the four DF ministers. In a statement, the DF lashed out at the SDA and HDZ saying ”lie and deception’’ being the only weapon of SDA leadership. The session on the managerial structure dispute was called a ”cursory congress in which brutal theft was used to create an economic coup d’état,’’ the statement reads.
The breakup of the coalition sparks confusion on how the situation develops as it increases the potential for even more political instability. The SDA, HDZ and DF are also in ruling coalitions in several cantons in the Federation as well as at state level. In the past HDZ leader Covic said that a break-up of the BiH Federation will cause a break-up on all governing levels, whereas DF leader Komsic indicated that the DF’s disengagement only referred to the Federation and not state level. An option for the remaining two ruling parties could be to include a third party – which has happened before – in the ruling coalition to regain the majority in the parliament.
If the political crisis spills over to the state-level government, early elections might be the only option left. The government in Bosnia’s other entity, the Republika Srpska, also seems to shake due to the weakening of the ruling coalition in this Serb majority entity. The crisis comes at bad time as the country is about to adopt EU-sponsored reforms in order to obtain a new deal with the IMF by the end of 2015.
Republika Srpska refuses to sign EU Reform Action Plan
On top of the current political crisis in the Federation of Bosnia, leaders of Republika Srpska (RS) refused to sign the action plan on EU reforms aimed to unblock EU integration and secure new funding. In the past few days both the Council of Ministers and the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina have adopted the document. EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn cancelled his visit to Sarajevo after receiving the news. “I call on the government of RS to take similar steps as a matter of utmost priority. This reform agenda is the result of extensive consultations among all levels of government in the country,” Hahn said. “The European Union is ready to support this reform agenda with substantial funds. However, these can obviously only be committed in case the reform agenda is properly adopted and implemented,” he added.
Republika Srpska’s President Milorad Dodik said ”the (reform) agenda does not exist for us. I am the president of the RS and I represent it, and I give no consent for this (document), whatever some people may think.” In the past, Dodik has frequently outed his distrust in EU reforms saying the declaration would be another attempt “towards centralising Bosnia and Herzegovina” which Republika Srpska “cannot accept.” A Bosnian Serb official said the main reason of Dodik’s refusal to sign the document relied on the fact that it refers to possible future privatisation of power companies, which he wants to keep under his control.
The rejection of the reform action plan puts more pressure on the political situation as it also affects the near financial future of the country, further threatening its financial, political and social stability. With all budgets used up, the country is highly dependent on EU financial support, which has been granted under the condition of the country fulfilling certain steps including the signing of the reform action plan as well as adopting a highly disputed labour law by entities’ parliaments.
By Elske Idzenga