The Social Democratic Party of Bosnia is officially dead. Death sentence was deliberated, sealed and delivered by its own members on early Sunday morning following lengthy party elections on Third Extraordinary Congress held in Sarajevo. Bosnia’s SDP suffered biggest defeat in modern history on November general elections which decimated at that moment leading national party to overall fifth position in Bosnian world of politics. Members, sympathizers and general public favorable of civic and social democratic idea asked party to start process of reforms but as of Sunday that process will not happen.
SDP wasted entire last term in political bickering, wrong decisions and let party leadership to forget their real role which was to take care of a membership. President of the party was country’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Secretary General held position of Federation of Bosnia premier, several vice-presidents were ministers or MP’s/Speaker of Parliament. At the same time one of key members and at that time member of Bosnian Presidency, Željko Komšić, decided to leave a party due to disagreements with president Lagumdžija or his key lieutenants on several important national issues. Komšć ended up forming a new political force Democratic Front.
Party leadership for weeks tried to deflect their responsibility in what happened to once most popular civic party in Bosnia, but membership and public were clear heads must roll. First and only head to roll so far is one of a 17-year-long term president Zlatko Lagumdžija who decided not to run again for a leadership and to take a seat among general membership of SDP. Long deliberations on party committees finally produced decision that the Third Extraordinary Congress will be held on December 6th and that temporary leadership would be elected.
Worth of mention is a fact that party leadership endorsed, for the first time in last decade or more, more than one candidate for party presidency which produced five solid candidates to succeed president Lagumdžija. Temporary leadership will have great duty to perform in just year or so of their mandate and that is to prepare new set of rules which will be ground for better future. New inter-party election rules, structure of party governing bodies and direction in which party would go ahead of municipal elections in 2016 and general elections in 2018. One of key requests by membership and those who opposed Lagumdžja’s stile of leadership was more democracy and more voice for average members.
More than 500 delegates Congress which represented all regions of Bosnia on Saturday gathered in Sarajevo to make a decision where party will go in the future. Final and a most important decision is that SDP will remain on Lagumdžija’s course. Current Secretary General and Federation premier Nermin Nikšić, strongly endorsed by outgoing leader Lagumdžija, won leadership contest with 233 votes just 9 votes more than his key opponent Selim Bešagić who got 224 votes. Nikšić who was described by Lagumdžija as a “lion of SDP” will have enormous challenge ahead of him to perform and nobody believes that he has right set of skills nor ability to came of out Lagumdžija’s shadow to do what is required for SDP revival.
“I’m here to tell you that there are people who have never been defeated. They are those who have never fought. Such unfortunately there and among us and are often louder than honorable veterans of the objectives of the SDP. They managed to avoid scarring, powerlessness, humiliation … They managed not to be real people. Do not live as proud lions but as small mice. Being a mouse or a lion, as a man, it does not become the birth – it’s a matter of personal choice. You have a choice. Would you rather live fulfilling the expectations of others or in accordance with their beliefs and dreams”, said Lagumdžija in his last address as SDP president.
First reactions coming from members and commentators are that SDP missed a great chance to break a link with the past and to set itself on healthy start for the future. No major changes will come in their policy, party life and democratic practices.
“SDP is historically responsible for social democracy in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and as such they killed their own ideology and ignore its own program, while the party managed autocratic. In the last four years, from 2010 onwards, the SDP is compromised creation and dissolution of political alliances, as well as rational policy. Unfortunately, it is this party represented the hope that society can derive from the mud and therefore the problem of the SDP is so important“, says political analyst Ibrahim Prohić in an interview.
Nikšić’s key opponent in battle for presidency Selim Bešlagić who was seen as a representative of older, more democratic and diversified generation of SDP politicians said that he is not sure that Nermin Nikšić will have a gut to do what is necessary. Bešlagić once again warned SDP that inter-party atmosphere is not accommodating factor which would open path for changes.
“However, the greatest tragedy of the SDP is that people within the party lost confidence in one another, and the real question is what do you do in such a situation. Personally, I would like to Niksic fails, however, I am concerned about what I could hear, which is that the party threatens dispersal membership after his election” said Bešlagić.
Benefaction from SDP Congress and demise could go straight to the party of their former vice-president Željko Komšić who managed to created new social democratic voice in Bosnia in just two years. Now when SDP will continue to live and struggle on a bumpy road to the future Democratic Front of Komšić will have a chance to take over larger percentage of once SDP voters. If they play their cards well as potential part of national and entity governments over a next two years DF could become key voice of civic Bosnia on municipal elections in 2016.