Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

Newly elected members of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, Croat member Zeljko Komsic, Serb member Milorad Dodik and Bosniak member Sefik Dzaferovic, shake hands as they attend the presidential inauguration ceremony in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina November 20, 2018. (Reuters)
Updated 20 November 2018

Bosnia swears in a three-man presidency dominated by nationalists

SARAJEVO: Bosnia swore-in its three new presidents on Tuesday, with all eyes on Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik, who will be the first to take the helm of a government riven by ethnic divides.
The three men will rotate seats every eight months under the complex peace deal that ended Bosnia's 1990s war and split power between its three main groups: Bosnian Muslims (Bosniaks), Serbs and Croats.
In October voters chose nationalists to represent the first two communities, in a sign of how tribalism continues to shape politics more than two decades after the war.
The three men took their oaths inside Sarajevo's Presidency building before several dozen ambassadors and politicians.
Dodik, a pro-Russian politician who is sanctioned by the US, will co-lead with Bosnian Muslim president Sefik Dzaferovic, who hails from the nationalist conservative SDA party, and Croat president Zeljko Komsic.
Komsic, a Social Democrat, is an outlier among the two nationalists and has called for a "Bosnia of citizens" that would transcend communal divisions.
But he is already facing attacks from the main right-wing Croat party that accuses him of betraying his people and now threatens to obstruct activity in parliament.
"It is currently very difficult to find a common denominator between Dodik, Komsic and Dzaferovic for constructive work," Bosnian political journalist Ranko Mavrak said in a radio interview.
"These three will have to decide whether they want to act as a body that seeks points of agreement or creates problems," he added.
While the Dayton Peace Accords that designed Bosnia's power-sharing arrangement ended a devastating war, critics say the system has entrenched communal divisions and hampered effective governance.
The country's unwieldy government is further complicated by two separate administrations in its highly-autonomous sub-regions: one for Serbs and one shared by Croats and Bosnian Muslims.
Those so-called 'entities' are strung together by weak central institutions.
Dodik's elevation to the top office could mark another blow to the fabric of a country he has previously skewered as a "failed concept."
The firebrand led Bosnia's Serb-run half for over a decade and periodically threatened to hold a referendum on its secession.
Last year the US placed him on a blacklist for undermining the country's peace agreement.
The 59-year-old seemed to soften his tone slightly after he was elected to the national presidency, saying he wants to work with Bosnian Croats and Muslims "in the interest of all."
On Tuesday he repeated his assurance that he did not want to "act to the detriment of anyone" and wished for "effective cooperation".
Political analyst Tanja Topic said the politician appeared to be making a "conciliatory gesture," though "it is still difficult to say whether Dodik will be constructive and whether he will work in the interest of the state."
A day earlier Dodik had repeated his demands to undo parts of the Dayton Peace Accords, including shutting down the office of the High Representative -- an international envoy that has been sent by the UN since 1995 to oversee the peace deal.
"My policy is not changing, it's just my workplace that's changing," he said on Monday.
Among ordinary Bosnians, there is little hope for major changes in a paralysed political system that has allowed corruption to flourish and stalled economic reforms for years.
Unemployment affects up to one third of the country, where large numbers are migrating abroad for work.
"There's nothing more to expect here," said Almir Korjenic, a 32-year-old applying for a work visa at the Slovenian embassy, summing up a widespread sense of political fatigue.
"(The politicians) fought each other before the elections to position themselves well after the elections and resume looting the country," he said.


Britain investigating whether leaked trade papers were hacked — sources

Updated 08 December 2019

Britain investigating whether leaked trade papers were hacked — sources

  • Labour Party says the documents showed Conservatives were plotting to sell off parts of the state-run NHS in trade talks with Trump
  • Johnson has repeatedly denied that claim while Trump said last week he would not be interested in the health service

LONDON: British cybersecurity officials are investigating whether classified UK-US trade documents that were shared online ahead of Thursday’s election were acquired by hacking or were leaked, two sources told Reuters.
Beside the fears that Russia could be meddling in another Western election, the disclosure of the classified documents has raised questions about the security of sensitive discussions between the United States and one of its closest allies.
Britain’s opposition Labour Party seized on the documents, saying they showed Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s Conservatives were plotting to sell off parts of the state-run National Health Service (NHS) in trade talks with US President Donald Trump.
Johnson has repeatedly denied that claim while Trump, who in July said the NHS would be on the table in trade talks, said last week he would not be interested in the health service even if it was offered to him by Britain on a “silver platter.”
Britain’s National Cyber Security Center, part of the GCHQ signals intelligence agency, is helping the government to investigate how the documents got into the public domain. It declined to comment on the investigation.
Two sources told Reuters that one of the lines of inquiry was to determine whether or not the documents had been hacked.
“There are clearly indicators to suggest there is more than carelessness or a disgruntled individual behind this,” said one of the sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitive national security nature of the investigation.
A third source said the investigation was looking at whether the documents were leaked from inside the United Kingdom.
Reuters on Dec. 2 reported that the way the documents were first shared on social media site Reddit and then promoted online closely resembled a disinformation campaign uncovered earlier this year.
Reddit said on Friday that the leak was tied to a previous Russian disinformation campaign.
The Kremlin, which says the West is gripped by anti-Russian hysteria, has denied it meddles in Western democracies.