The main players in Bosnia’s elections

Sunday’s general elections in Bosnia will pit several seasoned veterans who have long dominated political life in the Balkan country against a slate of relative newcomers. 

Here is a who’s who of those competing in the deeply divided nation that is comprised of a Serb entity — the Republika Srpska (RS) — and a Muslim-Croat federation united by a weak central government.

– Milorad Dodik –

Dodik, 63, has been the undisputed political leader of the Bosnian Serbs since 2006. 

Sanctioned by the US, Dodik has undergone a dramatic transformation over the years from a moderate, pro-Western progressive to a hardline nationalist who has fostered close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin and Hungarian leader Viktor Orban. 

He openly despises Bosnia, which he has labelled an “impossible” country, and regularly threatens that the Serbs will secede.

After finishing a tenure in the country’s tripartite presidency, Dodik will be running this election as a presidential candidate in the Republika Srpska — a position he has held twice already.

– Jelena Trivic –

Trivic, a 39-year-old professor of economics, is gearing up to face off against Dodik in her quest to win the RS presidency.  

As a political moderate, Trivic is trying to offer an alternative to Dodik’s inflammatory politics while also paying heed to Serb  desires to maintain their autonomy in Bosnia. 

Trivic has staked her campaign on an anti-corruption platform, while also promising to craft a programme to boost pensions and agricultural production in the RS. 

– Zeljko Komsic –

An ethnic Croat from Sarajevo, Zeljko Komsic refuses to play up Bosnia’s ethnic divides.

The serving Croat member of the tripartite presidency fought with the mainly Muslim forces that defended Sarajevo during the siege by Serbs in the 1990s.

To this day, the 58-year-old lawyer remains popular with Bosniak Muslims and urban voters nostalgic for Sarajevo’s pre-war, multicultural past, but is largely reviled by large swathes of the Croat population.

– Borjana Kristo –

The 61-year-old Croat politician has spent the majority of her career in the shadow of her mentor Dragan Covic, the leader of the mainstream Croat party HDZ. 

She is Komsic’s main rival in the race for the Croat seat in the tripartite presidency. 

– Zeljka Cvijanovic –

This 55-year-old lawyer is hoping to change roles with her longtime ally Dodik after serving a stint herself as the RS president. 

The former English teacher and translator who worked with the European Union is now going for the Serbian chair in the tripartite presidency. 

– Bakir Izetbegovic –

Izetbegovic is the son of Alija Izetbegovic, the first president of independent Bosnia and the leader of the Bosniak Muslims during the civil war in the 1990s. 

Throughout his political career, he has relied heavily on his family’s legacy and frequently refers to his father in speeches with emotive references to the war. 

The 66-year-old architect continues to lead the ruling Bosnian Muslim party (SDA) and is aiming to win a third term in the tripartite presidency. 

– Denis Becirovic –

Izetbegovic’s main rival on the presidential ticket is Becirovic, a 46-year-old former professor of history promising to unite the divided country. 

Backed by an alliance of opposition parties, Becirovic is a member of the Social Democratic Party and has served in Bosnia’s central parliament since 2006.

by Rusmir SMAJILHODZIC