Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik is leading the Serb-majority region of Bosnia “into isolation and uncertainty” while doing everything to stay in power at all costs, the leader of one of the biggest Bosnian Serb opposition parties and Bosnia’s Foreign Trade and Economic Relations Minister, Mirko Sarovic, told N1 on Wednesday.
In the recent showdown between Sarovic and Dodik that occurred during a session of the parliament of the semi-autonomous Republika Srpska (RS) entity, Dodik asked lawmakers for support in a confrontation with the international administrator as well as for reversing post-war reforms that strengthened the central government.
Dodik has frequently alleged that Sarovic's Serb Democratic Party (SDS) is working together with Bakir Izetbegovic - the leader of the main Bosniak party in the county, the Party for Democratic Action (SDA).
Sarovic, however, argued that it is Dodik’s Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) that cooperates better with the SDA.
“He was in power together with Bakir for 13 years, we were for four, maybe five. That is a drastic difference. What was transferred to the state level in this country was done by his (Dodik’s) lawmakers, especially at the critical moment in 2006 and 2007,” Sarovic said.
“If you ask me whether there is chemistry between them, no, but whether there is a game they agreed on - yes,” he said, arguing that the two parties initiate topics to produce reactions from each other and “throw accusations at each other” in order to mobilise their base.
“That certain recipe Dodik is applying for years,” he said.
Dodik has often advocated for the Bosnian Serb-dominated half of the country to secede from Bosnia and is seen as someone who is obstructing the central government in order to prove the country can not function and needs to fall apart. Sarovic thinks that Republika Srpska as a strong entity within Bosnia should be the goal and that Dodik’s policy could destroy the Bosnian Serb entity.
“He is leading the RS into isolation and uncertainty, that is, in my opinion, the biggest danger. I think he is like a blind man who doesn’t know what is at the end of the road. It is an even bigger danger that he wants to stay in power at all costs,” Sarovic said.
However, he appeared confident that the RS will survive Dodik.
“Republika Srpska was there before Dodik and will remain after Dodik. It will even be better after him,” he said.
Asked about the latest confrontation, Sarovic said he knows Dodik well, and that the Bosnian Serb leader has reasons to be scared of the SDS.
“We had a lot of ‘matches’, he rarely won any match against me and we know each other very well. He has grown stronger, I know what he is like, he knows what I am like,” Sarovic said.
The SDS leader also touched upon the hot topic of the Annual National Programme (ANP) - the reason why Bosnia has not formed a new government since the October 2018 general election.Sending the ANP to NATO is the next step in Bosnia’s efforts to join the alliance.
Although Bosnian Serb representatives agreed to the country joining NATO years ago, they changed their minds and now refuse any step in that direction to be made.
The new Chairman of the Council of Ministers is supposed to come from Dodik’s party, but the Bosniak and Croat members of the tripartite Presidency refuse to vote for him until the ANP is sent.
Dodik has been accusing his two colleagues in the Presidency of preventing the electoral will of the people from being implemented.
Sarovic said he cannot allow for the SDS to support the adoption of the ANP either, as this would “open the doors for Milorad Dodik.”
“It would not be wise politically to make such a move. This would happen: we adopt the ANP and Dodik then says ‘look at these traitors, those are the biggest traitors ever born in this country, but what can we do? They signed off on the ANP,” Sarovic explained, adding that this would be political suicide for the SDS.
Sarovic estimated that there is a good possibility that the issue of the ANP and the forming of the government will be unresolved until the local election in 2020.
The SDS leader said that he does not see any chance for his party to enter a coalition with the SNSD.
“I don’t think that any offer would be serious enough to make us sit at the table together,” he said, adding that Dodik’s party had “bought” SDS members before and that this excludes any possibility for an alliance.
At the session on Monday, Dodik told representatives of the opposition that their efforts are in vain, as the SNSD will surely win the next local election.
“When we start putting up tents and gathering people in Banja Luka, when we bring orchestras and start singing, there is no chance you will defeat us,” Dodik said at the session.
“We’ve already reserved an entire lamb and pork fund for such an event. Your statements are in vain. We have a list of 55,000 voters in Banja Luka ready to vote for us at any time. Your battle is senseless. I’m just saying, you’ll just waste your money,” he said.
Sarovic said that it was “excellent” for the opposition that Dodik spoke that way in front of the public.
“They should see that, so they know who the leader among us is, what he is like and how he is representing us,” he said.
He also described the way he thinks Dodik could end his political career.
“I told Dodik in the RS National Assembly ‘you know you have enough votes, but some things need to be done differently. These young boys and girls, these rebels, they will defeat you one day, they have the energy, they can’t be bought, they will be the end of you’,” he said.
Sarovic was known as a strong supporter of wartime Bosnian Serb leader Radovan Karadzic, who was convicted for numerous war crimes, including genocide.
“His fate is heavy and tragic,” he said of Karadzic. “If you ask me, as the leader of the SDS, I have decided that I will not turn back and that I will look to the future.”
“That is exactly the problem, most political leaders still live in the 1990s. It is the problem of this country. Their head is in 1992, but they want to solve problems from 2019,” he said.
“I think that all normal parties experience an evolution with time,” Sarovic said, explaining that the SDA, as well as the main Bosnian Croat Party, the Croat Democratic Union (HDZ BiH), were also different before.
“We believed that our children should not be wearing military uniforms and that our basis should not be the year 1992. I deeply believe that all parties, especially the SDS, need to insist on values which will bring well-being to everyone in this country,” he said.