Nationalist Dodik elected in Republika Srpska
Bosnia and Hercegovina held an election on 7 October to select the three-member collective presidency that leads the country according to the 1995 Dayton Accords. Worryingly, a populistic nationalist Milorad Dodik was elected to represent Republika Srpska (RS). With continuing arming of the RS police force, there are fears Dodik could push for independence or unification with neighbouring kin Serbia.
In the past, Dodik sparked a major controversy as a key supporter of a referendum on the creation of “Republika Srpska Day”. The proposed holiday would mark the founding of RS on 9 January. The proclamation of the republic in 1992 sparked the bloody Bosnian War that claimed more than 100,000 lives. Previously, the Obama administration imposed sanctions on Dodik for actively obstructing the Dayton Accords.
Upon his election, President Dodik pledged to write to US President Trump to demand the abolition of the Office of the High Representative, a part of the Dayton Accords intended to protect the country’s constitution, as soon as he assumes office. The High Representative, currently the Austrian Diplomat Valentin Inzko, can “remove from office public officials who violate legal commitments or, in general, the Dayton Accords.”
Dodik’s ties to the Kremlin are also worrying. Russia has a big influence in RS, Russian Foreign Minister Lavrov visited the entity two weeks prior to the election to support Dodik and Russian instructors are training the well-armed RS police force. Analysts believe that the goal of Russia is to prevent Bosnia from joining EU and NATO, and to control the country’s fate through a militarised client state. Any secession efforts would likely spark a wider conflict in the unstable region.
Others remain calm: “an escalation isn’t necessarily in Russia’s interests,” said analyst Bechev. Russia does not want to get involved in a yet another conflict and the status quo situation of divided and weak Bosnia. Others also point to Dodik’s populism and see his goal is ultimately staying in power and profit from widespread corruption in Bosnia.
Saudi Journalist Murdered in Istanbul
On 2 October, Jamal Khashoggi, a Saudi journalist living in exile disappeared and was probably killed during his visit to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. After Khashoggi entered the consulate, he was allegedly drugged, tortured and ultimately murdered by Saudi personnel, who came to Turkey a day before he arrived in the consulate and left the country shortly after. Turkey started a police investigation and claimed that Khashoggi’s interrogation and murder were recorded by his Apple Watches. It is more probable, however, that the consulate was bugged.
Khashoggi fled Saudi Arabia in 2017, criticising the Saudi government and the intervention in Yemen. He received a residency in the United States and had to visit the consulate in Istanbul to arrange some paperwork before getting married to his Turkish fiancé. It was she who reported his disappearance. Turkish investigators could enter the consulate only after several days. Despite, they claim that they have found evidence that Khashoggi was murdered. Originally, the Saudi government denied any involvement in the disappearance and claims that Khashoggi left the consulate alive. Now, however, there are reports that Saudi Arabia may admit that Khashoggi died as a result of botched interrogation.
Khashoggi’s murder was condemned by the international community. Multiple media groups and companies cancelled their participation on a Saudi investment conference nicknamed “Davos in the Desert” taking place later this month. It is unlikely that harsher measures, such as sanctions, are going to be imposed by Western or other countries. Saudi Arabia is a major oil supplier and many states have lucrative contracts with the Saudi government.
Brazil´s Election – Back to the Dictatorship?
On 7 October, Brazil has gone through with the first round of a very important presidential election. Worryingly, the first round was won by the far-right candidate Jair Bolsonaro. The ex-army captain received 46,93% of votes. To win outright, 50% of votes were needed, meaning a second-round runoff will take place on 28 October. The second-placed candidate, Fernando Haddad from leftist Worker´s party, gained 29%.
Last month during the political rally in Juiz de Fora, Bolsonaro was stabbed in his stomach and lost 40% of blood. In his campaign, he was praising Brazil´s brutal dictatorship regime lasting from 1964 to 1985, an extremely divisive issue in Brazilian politics. Brazil has a long history of corruption and a significant part of the population have lost their trust in “traditional politicians”. A vote for “anti-establishment” Bolsonaro who was not yet involved in any corruption case is understandable.
Bolsonaro, or the “Trump of the Tropics” as he is sometimes called, has all the characteristics of a dictator. He has ties with Trump´s former controversial far-right strategist Steve Bannon. He said that the former dictatorship regime in Brazil was “beautiful” and has spoken about torture as a legitimate practice. He is rightly criticized for his racism, homophobia, and misogyny. He wants to restore the death penalty, relieve gun ownership laws, make it easier for police to kill or privatize, and shut many state companies. In 2014, Bolsonaro told Congresswoman Maria do Rosario “I wouldn’t rape you because you don’t deserve it” and that she is “ugly” and “not his type”. The candidate has also said that if he had a gay son, he would be unable to love him and “prefer that he die in an accident”.
Image source: Flickr | Izbor za bolji zivot Boris Tadic
STRATPOL Memos is a project which on a bi-weekly basis provides a short overview of the most important selected moments of Euro-Atlantic security and related areas. Our goal is to provide brief and informative comments with short analysis putting news into a broader context.
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