Bosnians vote in general elections but reconciliation slow in a nation still divided

More than three million voters went to the polls yesterday in general elections in Bosnia, which are likely to keep up the deep ethnic divisions and bring no solution to the political stalemate in the country that has barely recuperated from the bloody war of the 1990s.

The elections were preceded by a brutal nationalist campaign conducted by leaders who presented themselves primarily as custodians of their Bosniak Muslim, Croat or Serb ethnicities, in spite of woeful economic conditions in a country where unemployment stands at 43 per cent. Some $15bn (£9.5bn) pumped in to the country since the end of the 1992-95 war have vanished into thin air or into the pockets of corrupt politicians.

"I expect nothing particular from the elections," said Sarajevo housewife Fatima Basic, 55, as she cast her vote. "People still vote for hot words and not for those who could change their lives for better."

There is little hope that voting will introduce new leaders that could launch badly needed political and economic reforms, including the strengthening of the institutions of central government in Sarajevo, a key condition for EU entry.

At present the country's complicated power structure means that elections will select five separate presidents and 700 MPs. But reform is ruled out at present by the conditions laid out in the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the war, under which the country is divided into two semi-autonomous entities, the Republic of Srpska (RS) and Muslim-Croat Federation.

The RS is not willing to cede any autonomy to Sarajevo and it has focused on demands for secession after Kosovo proclaimed independence from Serbia in 2008. Croat leaders call for the creation of their autonomous region within Bosnia, while Bosniak Muslims say the only future lies in a united country.

In the meantime, only the capital of Sarajevo and Banja Luka, the capital of the RS, look like bustling, modern cities, thanks to post-war renovations and relatively strong local economies. Most people elsewhere rely on small pensions or remittances from families living abroad.

Reconciliation is slow in Bosnia, where 100,000 people, mostly Bosniak Muslims, died in the war. Bosnian Serbs hardly admit that the Srebrenica massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys in 1995 ever happened, and their leader, Milorad Dodik, calls Belgrade the capital of his nation, rather than of Sarajevo. Inter-ethnic marriages, a quarter of all unions before the war, are now scarce. With two million people displaced by the conflict and very few returning, it is also doubtful how many people live in Bosnia, as no census has been carried out since 1991.

The school curricula remain completely separate, with Serb children relying on Serbian, Croat children on Croat and Bosniak children on Sarajevan textbooks. They speak separate languages and history is shaped in accordance to national myths that differ profoundly.

Preliminary results last night put Social Democrat Zeljko Komsic ahead for the presidency's Croat seat. The Bosniak front-runner was Bakir Izetbegovic, of the predominantly Bosniak Party for Democratic Action.

In the lead for Serb post was the incumbent Nebojsa Radmanovic, of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Life and Style
Steve Shaw shows Kate how to get wet behind the ears and how to align her neck
healthSteven Shaw - the 'Buddha of Breaststroke' - applies Alexander Technique to the watery sport
Arts and Entertainment
The sight of a bucking bronco in the shape of a pink penis was too much for Hollywood actor and gay rights supporter Martin Sheen, prompting him to boycott a scene in the TV series Grace and Frankie
tv
Sport
footballShirt then goes on sale on Gumtree
Voices
Terry Sue-Patt as Benny in the BBC children’s soap ‘Grange Hill’
voicesGrace Dent on Grange Hill and Terry Sue-Patt
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Arts and Entertainment
Performers drink tea at the Glastonbury festival in 2010
music
Arts and Entertainment
Twin Peaks stars Joan Chen, Michael Ontkean, Kyle Maclachlan and Piper Laurie
tvName confirmed for third series
Sport
Cameron Jerome
footballCanaries beat Boro to gain promotion to the Premier League
Arts and Entertainment
art
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer / C# Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software / C# Developer w...

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£35 - 40k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant / Resourcer

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: As a Trainee Recruitment Consu...

Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, HTML, CSS, JavaScript, AngularJS)

£25000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: UI Developer - (UI, JavaScript, HTML...

Day In a Page

Abuse - and the hell that came afterwards

Abuse - and the hell that follows

James Rhodes on the extraordinary legal battle to publish his memoir
Why we need a 'tranquility map' of England, according to campaigners

It's oh so quiet!

The case for a 'tranquility map' of England
'Timeless fashion': It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it

'Timeless fashion'

It may be a paradox, but the industry loves it
If the West needs a bridge to the 'moderates' inside Isis, maybe we could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive after all

Could have done with Osama bin Laden staying alive?

Robert Fisk on the Fountainheads of World Evil in 2011 - and 2015
New exhibition celebrates the evolution of swimwear

Evolution of swimwear

From bathing dresses in the twenties to modern bikinis
Sun, sex and an anthropological study: One British academic's summer of hell in Magaluf

Sun, sex and an anthropological study

One academic’s summer of hell in Magaluf
From Shakespeare to Rising Damp... to Vicious

Frances de la Tour's 50-year triumph

'Rising Damp' brought De la Tour such recognition that she could be forgiven if she'd never been able to move on. But at 70, she continues to flourish - and to beguile
'That Whitsun, I was late getting away...'

Ian McMillan on the Whitsun Weddings

This weekend is Whitsun, and while the festival may no longer resonate, Larkin's best-loved poem, lives on - along with the train journey at the heart of it
Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath in a new light

Songs from the bell jar

Kathryn Williams explores the works and influences of Sylvia Plath
How one man's day in high heels showed him that Cannes must change its 'no flats' policy

One man's day in high heels

...showed him that Cannes must change its 'flats' policy
Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Is a quiet crusade to reform executive pay bearing fruit?

Dominic Rossi of Fidelity says his pressure on business to control rewards is working. But why aren’t other fund managers helping?
The King David Hotel gives precious work to Palestinians - unless peace talks are on

King David Hotel: Palestinians not included

The King David is special to Jerusalem. Nick Kochan checked in and discovered it has some special arrangements, too
More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years

End of the Aussie brain drain

More people moving from Australia to New Zealand than in the other direction for first time in 24 years
Meditation is touted as a cure for mental instability but can it actually be bad for you?

Can meditation be bad for you?

Researching a mass murder, Dr Miguel Farias discovered that, far from bringing inner peace, meditation can leave devotees in pieces
Eurovision 2015: Australians will be cheering on their first-ever entrant this Saturday

Australia's first-ever Eurovision entrant

Australia, a nation of kitsch-worshippers, has always loved the Eurovision Song Contest. Maggie Alderson says it'll fit in fine