Turkey- Bosnian Serb chief plays nationalist card in elections

(MENAFN- The Journal Of Turkish Weekly) >Months ahead of important local electionsMilorad Dodik President of Bosnia's Serb-dominated entity and leader of its main ruling Alliance of Independent Social Democrats SNSD has outraged Bosniaks [Bosnian Muslims] and Bosnian Serbs alike by naming a student dorm afterthe Bosnian Serb war-crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic.

On Sunday Dodik attended the official opening of the dormitory in the town of Pale east of Sarajevo which was named after Karadzic the war-time leader of the Bosnian Serbs who is on trial for genocide by the Hague war crimes tribunal. The court the ICTY is expected to deliver its ruling this week.

During his speech Dodik brushed aside questions from FTV the main TV station in Bosnia’s mainly Bosniak and Croat Federation entity quizzing him about past statements in which he had accused Karadzic of corruption and war crimes.

“I respect Radovan Karadzic as a man with strength and character” he said and provocatively turning to the FTV reporter added: “I am talking to you.”

The highly controversial ceremony was seen as an important part of Dodik's campaign to rally Bosnian Serb opinion in the Republika Srpska ahead of local elections due in October.

In fact he had already opened the same dormitory ahead of the general elections in October 2014 but it had remained unfurnished.

Survivors of the 1995 Srebrenica massacre overseen by Karadzic’s forces in which about 8000 Bosniaks were slaughtered said they felt disgusted.

“This situation should worry us all” Hatidza Mehmedovic president of the Mothers of Srebrenica association which gathers survivors and relatives of victims of the mass killing said.

“This is disgraceful common sense cannot understand it. Dodik is shamelessly continuing Karadzic's genocidal ideology” she added.

Some Bosnian Serbs were equally critical of the decision to honour such an infamous character in Bosnia’s recent history.

"Dodik opens a student dormitory in Pale and names it 'Radovan Karadzic' I am ashamed of being a Serb” the Banja Luka-based analyst Srdjan Puhalo said in a post.

Another Banja Luka-based analyst Slobodan Vaskovic on a blog called Dodik’s moves a “desperate” attempt to avoid investigation for possible corruption and win the election on the back of Serb nationalist rhetoric.

“In only one day Dodik deliberately exposes the whole [Serbian] people to great danger twice trying to force collective guilt on it and extending it as a live shield while defending its own family from investigations” he wrote.

Some international officials said they feared that Dodik was preparing even more radical moves in a bid to outflank opposition parties in the mainly Serb entity.

One foreign diplomat referred to his announcements in which he said that the RS government was planning to create its own auxiliary police.

On Sunday in another election rally in Serb-controlled East Sarajevo Dodik added more fuel to the fire by suggesting that the Republika Srpska might also cease to cooperate with Bosnia’s State Investigation and Protection Agency SIPA.

Dodik also said the RS could independently publish the disputed data from the 2013 census even though the state and the country’s two entity-based statistical bureaux have not reached an agreement on a common methodology.

Then he continued using its own data the RS might unilaterally change its constitution to adjust – which means weaken – Bosniak and Croat minority representation in key RS institutions.

Dodik announced that the Republika Srpska would establish its own auxiliary police “to better fight terrorism and organised crime” after meeting his coalition partners last Thursday.

Dealing with terrorism and organised crime so far has been SIPA’s exclusive competence. Such a move would be seen as a sign that Dodik is forging ahead with plans to win the mainly Serb entity greater autonomy and perhaps total independence.

Dodik previously announced that the RS government would purchase additional long-barrel weapons to better equip its police forces.

In a written statement to BIRN on Friday the Republika Srpska Ministry of Interior said the project was still at an early stage and would have to be developed before details can be provided.

However many Bosnian Serb opposition politicians and analysts say Dodik only wants the new police unit set up to prevent investigations and lawsuits against him and his family and friends for corruption.

“Creating a reserve police in Republika Srpska against organised crime and terrorism basically serves the purposes of Dodik who is trying to replicate state competences at entity level” Kurt Bassuener from the Democratization Policy Council think tank told BIRN.

“Dodik is creating this police force only to reinforce his strength so as not to be arrested and interrogated” Aleksandra Pandurevic member of the opposition Serbian Democratic Party SDS told TV1 station.

“This unit would solely have a mandate to protect him [from justice]” she added. Another key issue is the publication of the 2013 census results which is of critical importance for Bosnia's future EU path.

Publication of the results has been blocked for two years due to conflicting views about who should be included in the census as a resident.

If the census is not published by a July deadline however the EU has warned that it will not consider the results valid.

Without a published census Bosnia cannot advance the EU accession process. Last week Dodik said the Republika Srpska was ready to publish the results of the census in the entity on its own if the three agencies cannot reach an agreement.

“We'll find a way to publish the data only for RS - we're not interested in what Bosnia does” Dodik told the media.

Afterwards he warned the Republika Srpska might change its constitution to reflect the new ethnic reality which is likely to mean weakening the representation of Bosniaks and Croats in Republika Srpska’s institutions.

According to Bassuener Dodik's statements call for “a clear reaction from the international community especially the EU”.

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