Croatian President Zoran Milanovic said that the Bosnian Serbs’ strongman political leader Milorad Dodik is Croats’ partner in controversial efforts to change Bosnia and Herzegovina’s electoral system.

Croatian President Calls Dodik ‘Partner’ amid Bosnian Electoral Crisis

Croatian President Zoran Milanovic (L), Slovenian President Borut Pahor (C), Member of the Bosnian Presidency, Milorad Dodik (R). Photo: EPA-EFE/IGOR KUPLJENIK

Zoran Milanovic told media in Zagreb on Monday that Milorad Dodik, the Serb member of Bosnia and Herzegovina’s tripartite state presidency, is an ally in an ongoing political crisis over claims by Bosnian Croats that their rights to elect fellow Croats are being usurped by Bosniaks.

“We won’t solve this problem without the Serbs in Bosnia and Herzegovina,” Milanovic said.

He argued that “Dodik is our partner in this turmoil”, Radio Free Europe reported. Dodik was blacklisted by the US earlier this month for alleged corruption and destabilising Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Croats political representatives in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Croatia have been demanding changes to Bosnia’s Electoral Law so that Bosniaks, who make up the majority in the country’s Bosniak- and Croat-populated Federation entity, cannot vote in ballots for the Croat seat on the country’s tripartite presidency and for Croat seats in the House of Peoples.

The current Croat member of the presidency, Zeljko Komsic, is not seen as legitimate by many Bosnian Croats because he was elected with the help of Bosniaks’ votes. This has fueled some Bosnian Croat politicians’ demands for a separate Croat ethnic district in the country.

Some Croat politicians have allied with Dodik, who has been pushing his own secessionist demands for the Bosnian Serbs while also alleging Bosniak dominance.

Milanovic said on Monday that Dodik “did not get his hands bloody in the war” and is “the legitimate representative of the Serb people”.

Croatian Foreign Minister Gordan Grlic Radman also called for electoral changes in Bosnia and Herzegovina during his meeting with his Russian counterpart Sergey Lavrov on Monday.

Grlic Radman claimed that “creeping reforms” in Bosnia and Herzegovina had led to electoral law changes “at the expense of the Croat people”, Vecernji List newspaper reported.

“Now it is necessary to work on changes to the Election Law that will eliminate all forms of discrimination and inequality in the election process,” he added.

Commenting on a recent meeting between Bakir Izetbegovic, president of the biggest Bosniak party in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Croatian Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic in Dubrovnik, Milanovic said Izetbegovic’s policy was dishonest and that he did the same thing when he was received by Milanovic in September. “The same story as before. We and the Croats. The Serbs are a foreign factor”, Croatian news agency HINA reported.

On Monday in Strasbourg, Prime Minister Andrej Plenkovic told European Council President Charles Michel that “it is very important to discuss the situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina”.

Plankovic also met leading Bosniak politician Bakir Izetbegovic, the head of the Party of Democratic Action and member of the House of Peoples in Dubrovnik on January 10 to discuss a potential deal between political parties to avoid electoral deadlock in Bosnia.

“We are entering the final stages of negotiations which should result in a consensus on the changes to the Election Law,” Plenkovic said.

Izetbegovic said that he believes there is space for a deal to be made involving the leading Croat party in Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Croatian Democratic Union, HDZ.

“Elections have to happen I believe the HDZ leadership won’t risk joining Dodik on various ’blacklists,” he said.

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