bosnia report
New Series No. 15/16 March - June 2000
Why Dayton must be changed
by Haris Silajdzic (co-president of the Council of Ministers)

Mr Silajdzic, many factors indicate that after the elections your party has reasons to celebrate. How do you feel about this?

We do not unfortunately have any reason to celebrate. This is the Party for Bosnia-Herzegovina, which means that we are above all interested in the country-wide results. Unfortunately I have to point out that in almost two thirds of Bosnia Herzegovina the right-wing nationalist parties SDS [Serb Democratic Party] and HDZ [Croatian Democratic Union] have been reaffirmed. This has occurred five years after Dayton and will last for the next four years. I believe that the international players have not done enough to change this state of affairs. They had estimates and knew what the results of these elections would be, but they nevertheless insisted on the elections being held. The question remains: do they favour the status quo ? If elections have now been held for the third time without the refugees having first been returned, then this can only give a very negative message. It does not require much wisdom to explain the success of the SDS and HDZ: they have been rewarded precisely because they have prevented the return of the refugees and eventually it may happen that ethnic cleansing and the partition of the country are wholly legalized via elections. We are voting in electioÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ ns for the third time and the question of constituent nations has not been resolved. We are voting for the third time and we do not have an electoral law on the European model: why is it that with respect to the electoral law we are adhering so firmly to the Dayton Agreement, but that for example in the case of the Council of Ministers we do not adhere to it ? Where is the difference ? As a state-building party, which I believe we are, we have placed the emphasis directly on building the state and on the return of refugees, in the conviction that without that there can be no democratic or normal society.

It seems that your party's campaign differed from that of all other parties precisely in that the emphasis was placed on building the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. Do you believe that this is one of the reasons for such a result for your party, and was it not a little risky to compete in local elections with a campaign based precisely on these big state-political questions ?

We are a party that takes risks for the sake of the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina and building the state of Bosnia-Herzegovina. I believe that the foundation of the state is directly linked to the life of every citizen of Bosnia-Herzegovina, to the development of the economy and to the entry of foreign capital. Local problems will remain, but they will be resolved better and more quickly if we establish the state. For me there exist two kinds of party: pro-Bosnian ones, and ones that do not want Bosnia but try to sabotage it. What has been accomplished up till now has been imposed by the High Representative. At the last session of the Parliament, twenty laws were rejected without discussion; at the state parliament, unfortunately, 90% of the Constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina was rejected - and that is a body at the apex of the state that is directly responsible for implementation of the Constitution. For that reason it is necessary to guarantee the framework and we cannot ask why the economy is not advancing if we have not established the framework. Money is flowing into Macedonia, Albania and Bulgaria, Romania; part of the means and available capital belonging' to Bosnia-Herzegovina is siphoned off to those countries. Of course, it does not belong to us if we have not earned it, for people will not come here if they're uncertain, if property relations are unresolved and so on. Even if we cannot tomorrow return to Foca 4,000 of the expelled to live in peace and security, at least we can have a state established on paper, which one day will be realized.

The biggest surprise for many people was the voting distribution of the Bosniak segment of the electorate. How do you comment on it?

I was opposed to the elections of Ó96 because people were not returned to their homes. But if nothing else, elections have one positive side: that to the ossifying consciousness of the one-party system they gradually add dimensions of pluralism; that in people's consciousness there no longer exists only a single party. So if nothing more, at least we now know that we have a choice, and democracy in essence means the right to choose. Secondly, real social problems are present: above all, unemployment, pensions, the exodus of young people, which has to be stopped by all means. It can be stopped only by building the state, guaranteeing a framework for investment and developing the economy, and by Bosnia-Herzegovina keeping pace with the other states in the region. It is now unfortunately in a position that does not belong to it. Those, I believe, are the fundamental reasons. Of course, the results differ from municipality to municipality and for a serious analysis somewhat more time is needed.

There were many predictions before these elections that the results of the elections in neighbouring Croatia would spill over and have a big influence on the voting of the Croat people of Bosnia-Herzegovina. That has obviously not happened. Are you surprised?

No. It does not require any great wisdom to realize that sÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ everal months is not enough to deposit a positive effect in the heads of voters. In my opinion these elections have precisely retarded such positive trends, for there has not been time to establish a new political consciousness. I feel that the effects and shifts achieved in those elections and the advantages stemming from that will be much less than the damage to Bosnia at the overall political level resulting from the victory of the SDS and HDZ. That's my opinion and above all what I hear; and what I find devastating is that they're already considering [parliamentary] elections in October, while almost nobody has returned. I fear that the international community will exhaust itself on these changes, which will strengthen the position of those who are successfully upholding the existing order. Secondly, I fear that our political energy, the political talent and resources that we possess, will likewise be expended in inter-party competition in the parts of Bosnia where some form of democracy, tolerance and co-existence already exist to a greater extent than in other parts. I had hoped that the international community would devote the same enthusiasm and means to bringing about change in those parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina where it is totally obvious that the status quo is being maintained in every way possible.

You appear wholly convinced that by October nothing can be changed, and that the October elections will not bring about any serious change in the political configuration in Bosnia-Herzegovina.

I should be very happy if we could meet in October and I could recognize that I'd been wrong. When President Clinton was here, I told him that there would be no return of refugees. This we all know, it is merely a question of whether we shall admit it to ourselves: without radical changes in the relationship of ourselves and the international community toward Dayton, there will be no return of refugees. This means: if someone mistreats the returnees, then against them force must be employed because they are employing force. If this is not done, the message is: `Do not return.' What is being done with property, when plots are being handed out in Bijeljina, Zvornik and so on? They say that it's state land, but I know people who say: that's my land. Privatization in ethnically cleansed territories means the division of war booty, not privatization. Are these indicators that suggest the possibility of mass return? I think not. Because of this I am seeking radical changes - it's all the same to me how they're termed. I don't call this the revision of Dayton, because Dayton has already been revised in a negative sense. Everything that was unfavourable to the reintegration of Bosnia-Herzegovina has been carried out; everything that is favourable has not been. Do you want me to list the towns where nobody has returned? I understand that it is difficult, but I don't understand that, five years after Dayton, in Banja Luka, where there was a large Bosniak population, nobody has returned. Or Mostar: I have been publicly assured that people are returning to Mostar, but Milan Jovicic, President of the Associated Citizens, has said in front of everybody that this is not so. I have to believe him, but why is it the case? Jajce, for example, nobody ever mentions: why is that?

I'm interested in hearing what you say when representatives of the international community argue that, after all, the only tools they have at their disposal for changing the political configuration are elections.

My response is that elections directly legitimize ethnic cleansing. The more elections take place, the more ethnic cleansing is legitimized. What do you think, that a government will be established by October and anybody will return? Even if one is established, precisely because of the elections nobody will return.

I shall now try to play the part of a representative of the international community: what can the international community do if this is the choice of the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina? How can the ÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÌÔ international community change the existing state of affairs, if it cannot be changed by elections, if this is the will of the citizens of Bosnia-Herzegovina?

Whose will?

That of the citizens who vote.

It's not so. Those citizens can give their vote only if they are resident in their own homes. That's what we agreed upon at Dayton. But that agreement has not been honoured. How do I know what a person really wants and how can anybody tell what's in his head if he has been expelled from his home and, despite all the fine talk on the part of myself and others as well as of the international community, he has not returned? What kind of expression of the democratic will is that, if a million and a half people are not living in their own homes ?

Translated from a longer interview in Dani (Sarajevo), 14 April 2000


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