Bosnian protests hijacked by unruly minority: Izetbegovic
Anti-government protesters block traffic in downtown Sarajevo. REUTERS PhotoAn unruly minority is exploiting the protests in the country, according to Bakir Izetbegovic, Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia-Herzegovina.
The turmoil first erupted last week in Tuzla, once the biggest industrial hub in Bosnia, with locals venting their fury over years of political inertia and economic hardship. The protests quickly spread across the country, leaving hundreds injured while a number of local government buildings were ransacked and set alight over three days in the four biggest cities, Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica and Mostar.
Daily demos have continued since then but they have been smaller and more peaceful.
Izetbegovic said half of the adult population of the country cannot find work and that is one of the main reasons for the unrest. “It has been going on like this for a long time. The politicians are ruining the environment with conflicts and fights. The investment is running away. We cannot get foreign investment. Under these circumstances while some people can live a nice life, most people are struggling to live,” Izetbegovic told Anadolu Agency.
Two parties in Bosnia’s ruling coalition have called for early polls to ease tensions in the Balkan nation, where unemployment stands at 44 percent.
The protesters are also demanding the resignation of the government of the Muslim-Croat federation, one of the two entities which, together with the Serb Republic, makes up post-war Bosnia, a complex arrangement that critics say has slowed down reform efforts and led to a weak central government. So far, four regional officials in the federation have stepped down under pressure from the protesters.
‘Some groups use to gain advantage’
Izetbegovic stressed that the protests started out peaceful with people expressing legitimate grievances but were hijacked by a minority bent on causing destruction. “The people who came to fight for their rights in front of the public buildings were bewildered by the scenes. Then the organization revealed itself. And some people use these events to gain political advantage. The latest events took place in Bosnian-populated areas. However the situation in the Bosnian Serb Republic is harder. Their situation is worse than Bosnians’,” Izetbegovic said.
Bosnian leaders have also been quick to blame each other for failing to prevent the trouble. Izetbegovic has accused the country’s security minister, Fahrudin Radoncic, of failing to protect state institutions and of supporting the protesters.
Radoncic, a businessman-turned-politician, meanwhile warned that government inaction could spark more anger, calling for an anti-graft “tsunami.”