15 May 2014 Ahead of the ‘hotly contested’ elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina, a senior United Nations official today warned the Security Council that the country is politically heading in the wrong direction and that politicians might try to raise inter-ethnic tensions to divert attention from real problems.
“I am increasingly concerned that the country is in danger of falling into a vicious downward cycle of spiteful tit-for-tat politics that it will be difficult to emerge from,” Valentin Inzko, High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, told the 15-member Council at a meeting on the situation in the country.
“The same old mistake – putting the interests of a privileged class before those of the country and its citizens – continues to be made,” he observed.
Ever since the April package of constitutional changes was narrowly rejected in 2006, it has set the country on a downward trajectory, said the High Representative: “Eight years is a long time for a country to be going the wrong way.”
Stressing that the political fighting has led to work just for a chosen few while ignoring the average citizen who is scaling mounting economic and social problems and rampant corruption, Mr. Inzko highlighted large scale protests throughout the country in February.
He called these a “wake up call” for local politicians and the international community, and added that “the country could not continue to go on this way indefinitely without serious consequences.”
On the other hand, peaceful protests continued thereafter, representing a “positive step forward to strengthen Bosnia and Herzegovina’s democracy” despite the mixed response from politicians.
In this context, the country is scheduled to hold general elections on 12 October in what will be “the most hotly contested elections since the Daytona/Paris Peace Agreement,” Mr. Inzko said referring to the framework which ended three years of interethnic civil strife.
In particular, he expressed concern that in the coming months, the ongoing controversy over residence and voting rights could lead to disputes on the ground, particularly in municipalities across Republika Srpska.
“This is a scenario that all involved must do everything within their power to avoid. It is especially important that no one is discriminated against on the basis of ethnicity or because they are a returnee,” he stressed to the Council.
What Bosnia and Herzegovina badly needs to see in the forthcoming election campaign is a “frank, robust and action-oriented public debate” on how the incoming government plans to address rampant corruption, exceedingly high unemployment, and the lack of progress on Euro-Atlantic integration.
“We need to hear more about plans to reform the economy and create jobs, which is in the vital interest of all citizens of the country regardless of ethnic group,” Mr. Inzko said.
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