Christian Schmidt in Bosnia-Herzegovina: The Gordian knot has been broken

Christian Schmidt opposes the nationalists. In doing so, the high representative lifts a blockage that he once created himself.

A man speaks with his hand raised

Unties the Gordian knot, at least in part of Bosnia-Herzegovina: Christian Schmidt Photo: Dado Ruvic/Reuters

SPLIT/SARAJEVO taz | The decision was long awaited. Now the High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the German CSU politician Christian Schmidt, has intervened in the formation of the government of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH).

The FBiH is the Bosniak-Croatian part of the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. In doing so, he has apparently cut a Gordian knot: the more than five-year blockade of political institutions in that part of the country was lifted. A declaration issued on Thursday evening has now established that a new government can be formed.

After Schmidt’s word of power, the parliament of the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina can now elect the leader of the Social Democratic Party (SDP), Nermin Nikšić, as Prime Minister. This decision primarily curtails the power of the Muslim Democratic Action Party (SDA), but also the influence of the nationalist Croatian Democratic Community (HDZ) party in the Entity. The non-nationalist parties led by the Social Democrats can also look forward to a not inconsiderable increase in power.

The blockade, which Schmidt is now dissolving, he himself had brought about by controversial changes to the constitution and the electoral code last October. This gave representatives of the Croatian and Bosniak national parties HDZ and SDA decisive weight in the committees and blocked each other. An agreement was only concluded if both the president and vice-president of both parties agreed.

SDA loses sinecure, HDZ continues to profit

Three sides are involved in the legislation now enacted by Schmidt: the Croatian nationalists, the Bosniak National Party and the non-nationalists led by the Social Democrats. This makes 2-to-1 decisions possible.

Politically, the decisions of the last few days mean that the SDA, which has been the leader in the Bosniak camp since 1993, has suffered a significant loss of power. Their cadres lose important sinecures in the state. The party has lost more and more of its reputation in recent years and was recently perceived primarily as a machine for corrupt climbers.

The symbol of this is Sebija Izetbegović, the wife of party leader Bakir Izetbegović, who was able to use forged diplomas and titles to become head of the formerly very renowned Koševo Hospital in Sarajevo. Under the guise of religion, many party members also tried to gain influence in the state and institutions, thus dismantling the rather positive reputation of “European” Bosnian Islam.

The Croatian nationalists, led by the HDZ’s Croatian Democratic Community in Bosnia and Herzegovina (HDZ BiH), will probably continue to benefit from Schmidt’s decision. In Hungary, Poland and other European countries, right-wing and conservative parties want to see the HDZ as a bulwark against Islam. Their party leader, Dragan Čović, who has been involved in many scandals and corruption, is receiving support and goodwill even in the European Parliament.

However, the SDP troika, which sets the tone in the capital Sarajevo, the left-liberal Naša Stranka (“Our Party”) and the party Narod i Pravda (“People and Truth”), which has split off from the SDA, as well as a number of smaller parties also benefit from Schmidt’s decision. They now have the opportunity to implement their reform ideas in the Federation. The package of laws against corruption that Christian Schmidt wants to push through also comes to their aid. If Schmidt wants to be successful, he would also have to strengthen the democratic positions in Srpska, the Serbian part of the Federation of Bosnia-Herzegovina.

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