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News 14 Feb 18

Sarajevo’s Premier Defies Bosniak Ruling Party

Elvedin Konakovic told BIRN he will not quit as premier of the Sarajevo Canton after leaving the Bosniak ruling party, the Party of Democratic Action - and vowed to keep criticising it for alleged corruption.

Mladen Lakic
Elvedin Konakovic. Photo: Anadolu.

Elvedin Konakovic told BIRN that he won’t heed calls for him to quit as premier of the Sarajevo Canton, and that he will continue to speak out about what he alleges are corrupt activities linked to his former party, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA.

“If the cantonal assembly decides to replace me, that will be a purely political decision since this government has very good results so far,” said Konakovic.

Konakovic resigned from all his positions in the SDA on January 30 and now the party is calling on him to give up the Sarajevo premiership.

“Yes, I am ready to put at risk my position [as premier] but I will not offer them my resignation,” he said.

He alleged that media close to the SDA have been trying to tarnish his image, but said he would not remain silent about “various illegal activities in public companies”.

“I was speaking about that even before I left the SDA, but you see that they are now trying to spin this in a way that I had benefits [as a party member] and now I am fighting against this [after quitting the party], which is nonsense,” he said.

He said that 10,800 Sarajevans voted for him at local elections in 2016 and even though the mandate was given to him as a member of the SDA, he is proud of what his government has achieved so there is no reason for the SDA to ask him to resign.

As cantonal premier, Konakovic attracted public support for his attempts to address Sarajevo’s major problems with air pollution, water supplies and city transportation.

He also repeatedly warned that the problems were a result of the SDA's long-term neglect and mishandling of Sarajevo’s public services.

The SDA will soon decide whether to launch administrative moves to force Konakovic to step down, but that would mean that all the party’s ministers in the cantonal government would have to quit too, which would complicate its campaign for the general elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina in October this year.

Internal feuds and conflicting ambitions, as well as growing criticism of corruption and political patronage, have already led to several high-level desertions from the SDA in recent months.

Three out of ten SDA MPs in the state House of Representatives - Senad Sepic, Salko Sokolovic and Sadik Ahmetovic - left the party last year and established a new, independent political bloc.

Konakovic hinted that he could follow their example and launch a new political force.

“I will inform the public of the decision what I will do next; there are honest people who are leaving the SDA, we do have the potential to start from zero, with a list of names who will bring changes on a local level,” he said

He declined however to comment on speculation that he will join Sepic in his independent political bloc.

With his mostly moderate views, Konakovic - a former basketball player and sports official - was not a typical SDA functionary, and was not overly influential in the party's broad and mostly conservative infrastructure.

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