Decker of Chicago, IL asks:
seems to be a fundamental disagreement over who is truly running
the Republic of Srpska. In your opinion how influential is the
presidency that this nationalist politician has won and how concerned
should the West be?
The West should be very concerned about Poplasen's victory in
the Bosnian Serb entity. The entity presidency can be very influential,
since the president appoints the prime minister and can exercise
significant control or influence over the media, police, and army.
Three factors could limit Poplasen's power -- or enhance it.
First, in much of Bosnia, real power has existed at the local
level. War criminals and Mafia-like warlords have run the towns
and villages in much of the Bosnian Serb entity. Poplasen will
find allies with many of these local leaders, especially in the
eastern part of the Bosnian Serb entity. This could enhance his
control. If, however, local leaders, especially those who were
allied with Plavsic or more moderate politicians, resist his influence,
he could be constrained.
Second, the position of prime minister of the entity -- the head
of the government -- could provide a counterbalance or even marginalize
Poplasen. Poplasen will obviously try to engineer the election
of an ally to the post. But the parliamentary election results
may make it difficult for him to do so. A coalition of Serb moderates
and Muslims and Croats could, as last year, keep moderate prim
minister Dodik in power. Then the question, again, will be whether
the U.s. and the West are finally going to make Dodik deliver
on his promises of allowing major refugee returns in return for
the significant western aid he has received to date.
Third, a less nationalist Serb was elected to the national collective
presidency of Bosnia, replacing a staunch Karadzic ally. This
offers a chance for the West to significantly strengthen and develop
the national government which could further constrain Poplasen's
ability to control events.