Three very different elections are being held on Sunday, although they all start with “B”. Some of the ground we’ve already covered before.
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Bosnia’s elections are complex without ever being very exciting, because the country is structured in such a way that the voters have great difficulty in changing anything. For background, you can read my reports on the 2014 and 2018 elections.
Sunday’s vote will elect the three members of the joint presidency (one for each of the three ethnic groups); two regional parliaments (one Bosniak/Croat and one Serb); a national parliament (but elected from geographic units and therefore also ethnically fractured); and a president for the Serb region (the Bosniak/Croat region has a parliamentary system).
Most of the incumbents are nationalists, with the main exception being the Croat member of the presidency, Željko Komšić, a moderate who was elected partly with Bosniak support. He is standing again. The Serb presidential representative and the Serb regional president are also standing, but for each other’s positions.
The invasion of Ukraine has been traumatic for Bosnia: many Bosnian Serbs are pro-Russia, while from the Bosniak point of view the invasion is a re-run on a larger scale of what was done to their country in the 1990s. Serbia itself has kept a foot in both camps, but it can hardly remain uninvolved if Serb separatism pushes Bosnia to the breaking point.
Sunday also sees the first round of Brazil’s presidential election, together with elections for both houses of congress and for state governors and legislatures. Not much has changed since we looked at the situation last week; incumbent far-right president Jair Bolsonaro still trails his challenger, leftist former president Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, in all the published opinion polls, mostly by double-digit margins.
A runoff will be held on 30 October if neither candidate reaches 50%, and while Lula is within striking distance of that the polls still have him falling short. Second-round polls are equally emphatic as to Lula having a decisive lead; the problem is that Bolsonaro, who has made a variety of dubious claims about election fraud, could use the intervening four weeks to subvert the process in some way.
If the president concedes defeat and goes quietly it will be a big milestone in a year that has otherwise been rather short on good news.
Finally to Bulgaria, which went through the unusual experience last year of holding three elections in a calendar year. The third of them, in November, produced a reformist government headed by Kiril Petkov of We Continue the Change (PP), supported by the Social Democrats, the populist ITN and the liberal Democratic Bulgaria.
Despite beginning with high hopes, the government came to grief mid-year after ITN walked out, partly due to the stresses of the Ukraine war – Bulgaria has strong historic links with Russia but Petkov gave solid backing to Ukraine. A vote of no confidence was carried and Galab Donev, an independent, was appointed as caretaker prime minister to hold yet another early election.
The opinion polls (which do not have a terribly good record in Bulgaria) show the same seven parties as last time reaching the 4% threshold, but with the centre-right establishment party GERB taking first place ahead of PP. While the two are opposed on the issues of corruption and mafia influence, they are on the same side in relation to Ukraine, and unless they co-operate in some way it looks as if putting together a majority will be very difficult.