Two significant political developments in Bosnia and Herzegovina will have important repercussions for the process of constitutional reform and the country’s deal with the IMF.
By Ian Bancroft
Whilst the re-election of Sulejman Tihic for another four-year term as president of the ruling Bosniak Party of Democratic Action (SDA) constitutes a potentially positive development for the process of constitutional reform in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the simultaneous resignation of Nedzad Brankovic, the prime minister of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, who was last month indicted on corruption-related charges, threatens to delay much-needed support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF).
Tihic, who was singled out for particular praise by US vice president, Joe Biden, has played a pivotal role throughout the Prud process – a domestic initiative aimed at achieving the consensus and compromise necessary to meet the conditions required before the Office of the High Representative transitions to a reinforced EU presence. In comparison, Tihic’s main opponent for the party presidency, Bakir Izetbegovic, previously the SDA’s vice-president, who enjoys significant support from the increasingly influential Islamic Community, was deemed to be less pragmatic with respect to the issue of constitutional reform.
In contrast to two of the current members of the tripartite presidency, Haris Silajdzic and Zeljko Komsic, both of whom recently snubbed an invitation to visit Belgrade from Serbian president, Boris Tadic, Tihic has also pledged to improve relations between Serbia and Bosnia and Herzegovina; an important step towards establishing good neighbourly relations throughout the Western Balkans.
With the re-election of Tihic, however, prime minister Brankovic, also a senior member of the SDA, felt that he no longer had the necessary political support to continue in office. Brankovic has been under intense pressure, including public calls from Tihic for his resignation, since prosecutors pressed charges against him for misappropriating funds through real estate dealings that exploited a voucher scheme designed to benefit Sarajevo residents. Brankovic had persistently claimed that the indictment was politically- motivated, as he was a close political ally of Izetbegovic.
Failure to quickly install a successor to Brankovic and prevent the replacement of the entire Federation government threatens to stifle the necessary reductions in public spending, particularly social transfers, demanded by the IMF, thereby jeopardising the new stand-by arrangement that will give Bosnia and Herzegovina access to €1.2bn of support over the next three years.
With internal political wrangling undermining the government’s capacity to lead a much-needed reform agenda, further social unrest seems inevitable in the face of the IMF’s requirements and insufficient steps to mitigate the effects of the economic crisis.
Should the Federation fail to fulfil the IMF’s conditions by the June deadline, however, then the entire country could be denied access to vital financial assistance, sparking an economic and political crisis that would further complicate the process of finding a mutually-acceptable constitutional settlement for Bosnia and Herzegovina.