28 March 2014
After the governments of four of Bosnia's cantons quit in the wake of the mass protests in February, one of them, Tuzla, finally has a new government.
Tuzla Canton is the first in Bosnia and Herzegovina to get a new government since the mass protests that started in February forced four of the Federation entity's ten cantonal governments to resign.
Members of Tuzla Canton's new government held their first meeting on March 27 after the cantonal assembly confirmed their posts the night before.
The new premier, Bahrija Umihanic, and the other ministers signed statements, freezing their membership of political parties, if they had any, and pledged not to run in the upcoming general elections this autumn.
“I believe we can do a lot or a little – a lot if we all work together and only a little if we work separately,” he said.
“Our intention in this term is to solve the problems of at least two companies which are 'on their knees',” he added, referring to the grim situation in the local economy.
The Plenum of Citizens of Tuzla Canton has yet to discuss the formation of the new government and possibly give its advice in various fields.
Plenums sprung up in many parts of Bosnia in the wake of the street protests, raising hopes among disempowered citizens of a new channel to articulate grievances and express ideas.
One participant in the plenum in Tuzla, Selma Tobulic, told Balkan Insight that she hoped the formation of the new government would serve as a good practice for citizens.
“We will see what happens,” she said. “It was an illusion obviously to expect the whole system [in Bosnia] to change in a month.”
Tobulic added that it could not be avoided that some new ministers came from the old political parties.
“This new Prime Minister, Umihanic, has said many times he is not under pressure from any political party - although it is important for citizens to realise that one does not have to be a member of a political party to be pressured by it,” she noted.
Popular plenums started organizing in Tuzla after the street protests escalated and became chaotic on February 7.
Mobs set the buildings of several institutions on fire in the city, as well as in Sarajevo, Mostar and Zenica. Hundreds were injured and dozens arrested in clashes with police.
The protests in Bosnia started in Tuzla on February 5 when workers from several companies that had closed following privatization demanded responsibility from the cantonal government.
Dissatisfaction soon spread to many other cities, sparking similar mass protests. The governments of Tuzla, Zenica-Doboj, Sarajevo and Una-Sana cantons then resigned.
Bosnia comprises one district and two entities, one of which, the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina, contains ten autonomous cantons.
By Elvira M. Jukic