More than 25 years ago, the Bosnian War ended. Today, the country is still working to repair the damage the divisions of people within its borders caused. In 2008, Bosnia and Herzegovina’s constitutional court declared that the city of Mostar’s election rules were discriminatory toward more than half of its population. In the past 12 years, no elections occurred within the city. The two major political parties of the country, the Bosniak and Croat parties, have not agreed on new election rules. As a result, the same mayor did not run Mostar for the period. He has had no local council and has been solely responsible for allocating the city’s budget of 230 million euros.
With little accountability, the institutions of the city have slowly disbanded. As a result, the city has been crumbling, with trash piling up in the streets. Both the Croats and the Bosniaks started to leave the country to find better opportunities abroad.
The Efforts of Irma Baralija
Realizing that the city was only worsening, while the division amongst political officials was never going to result in a proper democratic vote, Irma Baralija sued the government through the European Court of Human Rights. Barajila, a local philosophy teacher, sued because the country had deprived her and the other 100,000 citizens of the right of voting in her district.
In October 2019, Barajila won her case. This resulted in the European Union and the United States officials working with Bosniak and Croats to set election rules by June 2020. With the rules specified in time, the first democratic vote occurred in December 2020, where the citizens had a say in local policies and officials for the first time in more than a decade.
Barajila is proud of the accomplishment within her home city. She stated that hopefully, other citizens would see the impact individuals can have in seemingly party-driven and group-oriented politics. She hoped that people followed her lead by voting in Mostar’s election on December 20, 2020.
The Outcome of Mostar’s Election
The results of the election caused different feelings. On the one hand, citizens were able to express their opinions. On the other, the two parties that have divided the country still are heavily running the show and causing conflict. In particular, both parties have claimed fraud and asked for a recount in specific districts.
In this time of the COVID-19 pandemic, the ability to express one’s opinion is as important as ever. How a country decides different issues regarding healthcare and economic openings can have a significant impact on individuals’ lives. Regardless of the controversial outcome of the election, the realization of Mostar’s election can be a major achievement in Bosnia and Herzegovina’s development.
– Aidan Farr