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26 Sep 10

The Main Candidates

Profiles of the main contestants in the 2010 Bosnia and Herzegovina general elections.

Haris Silajdzic
Party for Bosnia and Herzegovina, SBiH; Bosniak
 
Silajdzic is the current Bosniak member of the Presidency. One of the few remaining high-profile politicians with links to the war, he was Foreign Minister from 1990 to 1993, Prime Minister from 1993 to 1996, and helped negotiate the Dayton Pace Accords that ended the war.
 
Since then, though, he has been a staunch critic of the constitutional arrangement in Bosnia, accepting it as a war-ending compromise but arguing that it should have been changed over the years to strengthen the country’s central government with the ultimate goal to abolish the two entities and create a single, pluralistic, multi-ethnic state in their stead.
 
In 2002, he stood for election to the Presidency of Bosnia, but was beaten by the SDA leader Sulejman Tihic. In 2006, he managed to beat Tihic into second place and was elected for his first term as a member of the Presidency. His victory was widely seen as being a resounding public rejection of the 2006 constitutional reform package, which would have seen the central state strengthened; Silajdzic rejected the package because it did not go far enough.

Silajdzic insists that any set of constitutional changes would have to do away with a provision known as entity voting, which allows the Bosnian Serb minority in the central parliament to veto almost anything they deem to be against the interests of the Republika Srpska, including basic laws regulating commerce, agriculture or generating tax revenue.  
 
Bakir Izetbegovic
Party of Democratic Action, SDA; Bosniak

Despite being the son of wartime president and SDA founder Alija Izetbegovic, Bakir Izetbegovic has not enjoyed the smoothest of political journeys, and is significantly less popular than his father was, even among Bosniaks. Links to organized crime and allegations of corruption have dogged his career, though he vehemently denies them.
 
Izetbegovic previously ran in the elections for President of the SDA, against the incumbent Sulejman Tihic, leading to rumors of a rift between the two men. Izetbegović's nomination as the SDA candidate for the Presidency, though, seems to indicate that the hatchet has been buried. However, some local media suggested that it was a ploy by Tihic to weaken Izetbegovic’s position in the party because it is widely believed that he is unlikely to beat Silajdzic in the presidential race.
 
Fahrudin Radoncic
Union for a Better Future of Bosnia and Herzegovina, SBB-BiH; Bosniak

The owner of Dnevni Avaz, one of Bosnia's largest daily newspapers, this media mogul styles himself as a Berlusconi-esque figure, and has been similarly controversial.
 
His newspaper has, in the absence of reliable figures, probably the highest circulation of any in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Radoncic has pursued several high-profile property development projects in Sarajevo. These include the 175m Avaz Twist Tower, the skyscraper headquarters of Avaz visible from most of Sarajevo, and the Hotel Radon Plaza, a luxury hotel complex in the Bosnian capital.
 
His political career is a recent development; he has not run for prior political office, and announced his candidacy for the 2010 elections - and the formation of his own SBB-BiH party - in September 2009. The party's platform has remained somewhat vague, thus far at least, and appears to be centered primarily on Radončić as a personality.

Radoncic's recent speeches have tended to focus on the halting nature of the economic and infrastructural redevelopment of Bosnia and Herzegovina following the war, especially when compared to neighboring countries, and economic issues seem to be a central plank of the party's policies; no surprise, really, given Radončić's attempts to portray himself as the great rebuilder.

However, Radoncic has failed to present any concrete proposals for the country’s recovery and is instead focusing on aggressive attacks against the SBiH and SDA although the close post-war links with the latter are believed to have been the key for the birth and expansion of his business empire.
 
Nebojsa Radmanovic
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD; Serb

The current Serb member of the Presidency, Radmanović comes from Dodik's SNSD and for that reason is likely to win comfortable re-election; given the prevalence of straight-ticket voting, a vote for Dodik as RS President will probably also mean a vote for Radmanović as President of BiH, a vote for the SNSD for the National Assembly of the RS, and a vote for the SNSD in the national Parliamentary Assembly - making this year a potentially bumper year for the SNSD.
 
Mladen Ivanic
Party of Democratic Progress of the Republika Srpska, PDP-RS; Serb

For the 2010 elections, the SDS and PDP have formed an alliance called Zajedno za Srpsku, "Together for the RS"; under the terms of the agreement, Ivanic from the PDP will run for the overall presidency, while Ognjen Tadic will run for President of the RS. Given Dodik's inexorable surge in popularity recently, Ivanić must be considered a rank outsider for the Serb seat on the presidency.

Ivanic, a prominent economist who has earned his PhD at the age of 25, served as Bosnia’s Foreign Minister in the 2003-2007 period and as the Republika Srpska’s Prime Minister from 2001 until 2003.   
 
Zeljko Komsic
Social Democratic Party, SDP; Croat

The current Croat member of the Presidency, Komšić owes much of his being elected to the split between Ivo Miro Jovic and Bozo Ljubic that in 2006 created two factions from the HDZ, historically the most successful Croat party in Bosnia.
 
Married to a Bosniak and a citizen only of Bosnia, he cuts an unlikely figure in the world of ordinarily nationalist Croat politics; indeed, he explicitly rejects nationalism. This rejection is reflected in his popularity: in a 2009 poll, he was more than twice as popular with Bosniaks than he was with Croats, polling 44 per cent to 21 per cent with each respective group - the only presidential candidate to enjoy significant popularity among more than one ethnic group.
 
This cross-ethnic support, and the continued split between the HDZ and HDZ-1990, leaves Komšić as the definite forerunner among the Croat candidates -even though he consistently polls second among Croat voters - and perhaps the candidate most comfortably positioned overall.
 
Martin Raguz
Croatian Democratic Union 1990, HDZ-1990; Croat

The leader of the group that splintered from the HDZ in 2006, Raguz is considered the most serious challenger to Komsic for the Croat seat on the Presidency. That he lacks Komšić's cross-ethnic support; however, is a major obstacle that will probably prove insurmountable.

Raguz’s candidacy has been put forward by the coalition of the HDZ 1990 and the Croatian Party of Rights, HSP, formed after failure of talks between all Croat parties in Bosnia to have a joint presidential candidate. The talks failed due to refusal by the HDZ to accept any presidential candidate other than their own.

Borjana Kristo
Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ); Croat

Borjana Kristo is the current president of Bosnia’s Croat-Bosniak part and the first woman ever to hold that post. Her previous political experience includes serving as the justice minister in the Croat-Bosniak government as well as in the local government of the southern Herceg-Bosnia canton. Despite her relatively rich political career, Kristo has never drawn any significant media attention. Several opinion polls conduced by local media in Bosnia indicate that she has little chance of wining any significant share of the vote.  

Candidates for President of the Republika Srpska
 
Milorad Dodik
Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD; Serb

Dodik is the current Prime Minister of the Republika Srpska, but in the 2010 elections is standing for the Presidency of the Republika Srpska.
 
Once seen as a moderate figure in Bosnian Serb politics, and courted by the west in favor of Radovan Karadžić and his Serb Democratic Party, Dodik has actively sought the nationalist vote in recent years. On the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica genocide in July 2010, for example, he released a statement denying that the massacre was a genocide, claiming that there had been fewer casualties than the accepted figure, and suggesting that the true victims in the region were those Serbs who died in the conflict.
 
Like Silajdzic, he is no supporter of the constitutional status quo in Bosnia, but he approaches the issue from the opposite end of the spectrum: rather than seeking the abolishment of the entities and the creation of a pluralistic state, as Silajdzic does, he seeks greater level of autonomy for the RS and a further weakening of central institutions.
 
In the past few years, he has increasingly - albeit tentatively - broached in public the issue of secession. Since the ICJ ruling on the legality of Kosovo's declaration of independence, for example, Dodik repeated on numerous occasions that it was a precedent that would apply to the RS.
 
Before beginning his current term as Prime Minister of the RS in 2006, he also held the same position from 1998 to 2001. His election to the RS Presidency is being treated as almost a formality among many media commentators, with opposition from the SDS token at best.

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