October 13, 2010 § 2 Comments
As promised, and a little late, here is my roundup of the last few elections.
Bosnia has a very complicated electoral system, which came out of the Dayton accords at the end of the war – and is designed to give each ethnicity equal influence and build consensus. All the elections are conducted under closed list Sainte-Lague PR – unless there is only one candidate in which case it is first past the post.
Bosnia is divided into two semi autonomous entities – “The Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovenia” which is primarily ethnically Bosnian and Croat and “Republika Sprska” which is primarily ethnically Serb. The mixed district of Brcko is formally part of both, and has a degree of autonomy.
Both halves elect their own national assembly. In addition they together elect a House of Representatives for Bosnia and Herzegovenia – which is the lower hose of the federal government. The upper house is called the House of the Peoples, and is elected by the houses of the two halves. It has 15 members: 5 Bosnian, 5 Serb, and 5 Croat and its job is to make sure that no law can be passed unless all three ethnic groups agree to it.
The much repeated quote about “13 Prime Ministers, 14 constitutions, 14 parliaments, 14 legal systems” etc… is a little misleading – not that the system isn’t complicated enough. You can get to these numbers if you look at the powerfully autonomous regional government but the Prime Ministers do not have any real power. The quote comes from Bosnia’s Ambassador to the USA Miroslav Lajack, in the course of a speech about how unwieldy the system was.
He also said there were 5 presidents – a figure he arrived at by including the leaders of the two constituent halves. In actual fact executive power is vested in 3 presidents – one from each of the three ethnic groups. Voters in the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovenia get to choose whether they want to vote for the Croat or the Bosnian President, whilst Republika Sprska elects the Serb president. The president who receives the most votes becomes chair of the presidential council and so has a little more power, but the idea is the three presidents move forward by consensus. In addition there are a great deal of checks and balances from the legislative – who have various veto powers – and any constituent half of the country can block any change proposed by the other half.
There is not yet any evidence that the Federation half are tactically choosing to vote in one election rather than the other in order to gain more votes for one candidate over the Repubica half.
The results were mixed. In the main, the Bosnian parts chose conciliatory pluralist candidates whilst the Serbian and Croat parts chose hard-line nationalist. This fits in with various analysts’ views that opinions in Republica Sprska are hardening, and there is an increasing appetite to split from the Federation. However this hides a lot of the detail in the results – there were pro-moderate moves amongst Serbs and Croats too, but the nationalists grabbed the headlines.
Firstly the presidency. The Serbs re-elected hard-line pro secession Nebojsa Radmanovic. The Croats re-elected the moderate Zeljko Komsic, and as he got the most votes overall he will chair the presidential council. In the biggest surprise of the night, moderate Bakir Izetbegovic beat hard-line incumbent Haris Silajdzic for the Bosnian presidency.
Meanwhile seats in the executive seem to have not been finalised yet (update, they now have and are available on the Bosnia page). However it seems that in Republica Sprska, and for the Serbian seats, hard line virulent nationalist separatist Milorad Dodik and his SNSD were re-elected, but with a considerably reduced majority. The Croats largely seem to have voted for the nationalist Croat Democratic Union. Meanwhile amongst Bosnians the compromise Party for Democratic Action kept their top spot but there was a dramatic improvement for the multi-racial radically compromising Social Democrats – they may well have also received a fair few votes from Croats and Serbs living in Bosnian areas.
For all the hand wringing, the result is broadly a continuation of the status-quo – if not slightly better. At every level of every government there are a mixture of hardliners and moderates who are now going to have to work together – but that was the case before. There is a problem with militant Serb nationalism in Republica Sprska – but we knew that before Sunday week.
The real problem as I see it is not that Bosnia is so divided politically, but that it is so divided socially and culturally. These sobering demographic maps show just how ethnically mixed Bosnia was in 1991, and how segregated it was by 2006:
Latvia is thankfully more straight forward. A 100 seats are elected by Sainte-Laguë PR to their one parliament which elects one Prime Minister. Previously the centre-right parties had been ruling in a coalition with the help of green and farmers’ parties. Prior to these elections the centre right formalised their coalition into an alliance known as Unity whilst the centre-left went a step further and merged into a political party known as Harmony. The Greens and Farmers (note: whilst still Greens, Latvian Greens are considered centre-right, the party largely consisting of conservative agrarians) also formalised their alliance into a coalition, which they called the Union of Greens and Farmers, displaying the kind of creative originality for which farmers are famed. Meanwhile the far right was more fragmented – eventually clumping together into two alliances: “For a Good Latvia” and “The National Alliance”.
These coalitions were all broadly successful; all benefiting from their alliances to pick up a clutch more seats. The exception was the far right who were virtually obliterated – losing 25 seats (a quarter of parliament). The result is a continuation of the status quo – the centre right propped up by the Greens and Farmers – but with the previously powerful far right now a political irrelevance and excluded. The centre-left could form a government with the Greens and Farmers if the latter agreed – they won’t yet, but it could be a useful bargaining chip in the years to come:
I promised you a look forward to Friday’s election in the Czech Republic, which makes me look silly. The elections were held early in March of this year – nothing is happening on Friday. The next elections are on October 23rd in Bahrain. They are going ahead – there’s already some stuff about it on my Bahrain page.
In the meantime enjoy every election campaign ad of the US mid terms so far.
Update: I now look even sillier: there are some limited elections in the Czech Republic this weekend but they don’t mean much. They are for the first round of the elections of a third of the largely powerless upper house. See the comments for more details.