BANJA LUKA, Bosnia-Hercegovina, AFP and AP
The newly-elected Bosnian Serb parliament opened an inaugural session here on Saturday, with Mirko Sarovic due to be sworn in as the Bosnian Serb president.
Yugoslav President Vojislav Kostunica, who had been expected to attend the ceremony, canceled his visit due to developments in southern Serbia, the Bosnian Serb news agency SRNA reported.
For the first time in the history of the Bosnian Serb parliament, Bosnia’s national anthem was played and the Bosnian flag raised.
The anthem of the Republika Srpska (RS), the Bosnian Serb entity, was also played, and Muslim and Croat deputies refrained from leaving the chamber, which they had always done during the lifetime of the previous RS parliament.
Sarovic, of the nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS), told reporters on Friday he would start consultations on the candidate for prime minister on Monday.
The SDS leader, who has done much to steer his party away from its ultra nationalist origins, said he hoped the new government would be elected before the end of the year.
Under the RS constitution, Sarovic has to nominate a prime ministerial candidate within 10 days following of his inauguration.
Mladen Ivanic, leader of the Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), is favorite to take over the post from outgoing Milorad Dodik, leader of the Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD).
The PDP expects to get the internal affairs, justice and finance portfolios, Vice President Zoran Djeric said in Saturday’s edition of the daily newspaper Nezavisne Novine.
The PDP also insists that representatives of non Serb parties participate in the government.
Earlier this week Sarovic’s SDS announced an alliance with the PDP, the Socialist Party (SPRS) and the Democratic People’s Alliance (DNS), giving the new bloc an outright majority of 49 seats in the 83-seat parliament.
Dodik described it Saturday as an “alliance for disaster,” in an interview with Nezavisne Novine.
“The return of old forces, who once showed their incapacity and unreadiness to engage themselves in searching for solutions to the economic, social and political crisis, will not bring good to anyone,” said Dodik.
During the Bosnian war and in the years that immediately followed it, the SDS was led by Bosnian Serb warlord Radovan Karadzic, who went into hiding after being indicted by the UN war crimes tribunal in the Hague.
In the November 11 elections, the SDS won 31 seats to become the strongest party in parliament. The PDP won 11, the SPRS four and the DNS three seats.
Dodik’s Party of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) has 11 seats, the Democratic Socialist Party (DSP) four, the Serb People’s Alliance (SNS) two, the Democratic Party (DSRS) and the Pensioners Party (PSRS) one each.
The Muslim Party of Democratic Action (SDA) won six, the Social-Democratic Party (SDP) and Party for Bosnia and Hercegovina (SBIH) four seats each, and the New Croatian Initiative (NHI) one.
The RS, along with the Muslim-Croat Federation, makes up postwar Bosnia.
On Friday, Bosnia and Yugoslavia established diplomatic ties eight years after a Muslim-led Bosnian governement seceded from the former Yugoslavia in a bloody ethnic war.
After the signing ceremony Friday, Yugoslav Foreign Minister Goran Svilanovic said the move was “a major step which should have been made a long time ago.” Meanwhile, the incoming president of the Bosnian Serb republic, welcomed the establishment of diplomatic relations. Bosnia Herzegovina was divided into the Bosnian Serb republic and a Muslim Croat Federation at the end of the Bosnian war in 1995. In a statement Friday, Sarovic said he welcomed establishment of diplomatic ties, which pave the way for “special relations” between the Bosnian Serb mini-state and Serb-dominated Yugoslavia. Those “special ties” are provided for under the 1995 Dayton peace agreement, which ended the conflict, although the definition of those links is unclear. Dayton also envisioned a multi-ethnic nation-state in Bosnia. Five years later, divisions among the three communities remain deep.