CONTENT PREVIEW
Country Risk

Bosnian Serb leadership's postponement of contentious referendum unlikely to resolve political crisis in Republika Srpska

22 September 2017

Key Points

  • The Bosnian Serb leadership's postponement of a contentious referendum on the jurisdiction of Bosnia's state court reflects its desperate position.
  • The postponement of the referendum is likely to placate Bosnia's Western partners in the short term, but the Bosnian Serb leadership is unlikely to completely abandon their challenge to central authorities.

Event

Bosnian Serb President Milorad Dodik has postponed holding a referendum on the jurisdiction of the state court, reflecting his increasingly precarious hold on power and a need to temporarily conciliate with the West.Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik attends a rally in the Bosnian Serb stronghold town of Pale near Sarajevo, on 25 September 2016. (Samir Yordamovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik attends a rally in the Bosnian Serb stronghold town of Pale near Sarajevo, on 25 September 2016. (Samir Yordamovic/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images)

On 19 September 2017, the President of the Bosnian Serb entity of Republika Srpska (RS), Milorad Dodik, announced that he would indefinitely postpone a referendum on the jurisdiction of Bosnia's state court. The planned referendum served as yet another challenge to Bosnia's central institutions by the Bosnian Serb leadership, who have used referenda to shore up support from nationalist voters and keep central authorities in Sarajevo at bay. Dodik's official reason for the postponement is that there is currently no political consensus for such a referendum within RS, and the international reaction to such a move would be "hostile". The move is a tactical retreat by a hard-pressed Dodik, whose government is beleaguered by poor state finances and a strengthening opposition.

Precarious finances and stronger opposition

Dodik's statement was preceded by growing tension in the National Assembly of RS. On 13-14 September, some 30 opposition MPs, including representatives of the Serbian Democratic Party (Srpska Demokratska Stranka) and the Party of Democratic Progress (Partija Demokratskog Progresa), blocked the assembly's work in protest against the parliamentary leadership's refusal to include the Audit Report on the Budget's Execution in the agenda. The report, which was authored by former RS chief auditor Duško Šnjegota and his deputy Darko Pejić, revealed that the state of public finances is more dire than was previously disclosed.

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