Milorad Dodik (Serbian Cyrillic: Милорад Додик, [mîloraːd dǒdik]; born 12 March 1959) is a Bosnian Serb politician, currently serving as the Serb member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, the collective federal head of state.
The leader of the nationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), he has occupied a number of political positions in Republika Srpska (RS), the Serb-majority entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik was the Prime Minister of RS from 1998–2001 and 2006–2010 and the President of RS from 2010–2018.
Much like the SNSD, Dodik was initially considered as a moderate and reformist alternative to the ultra-nationalist Serb Democratic Party (SDS) in the 1990s and early 2000s. Since then, however, Dodik and the SNSD have pursued an increasingly-nationalist and separatist line, invoking the right of the Bosnian Serbs to self-determination. Alongside aggressive nationalist rhetoric, his time in power has been characterised by authoritarianism, repudiation of federal Bosnian institutions, and closer connections to Serbia and Russia.
Dodik was born in Banja Luka to Bogoljub and Mira Dodik. He lived in Laktaši, where he attended elementary school. There, he played on the town's basketball team in Yugoslavia's amateur league. In 1978 he graduated from an agricultural high school in Banja Luka, after which he entered the Faculty of Political Sciences at the University of Belgrade, where he graduated in 1983.
From 1986 through 1990 he was the Chairman of the Executive Board of the Municipal Assembly of Laktaši. In 1990, in the first multi-party elections in Bosnia and Herzegovina he was elected to the Parliament of the Socialist Republic of Bosnia and Herzegovina, as a candidate of the Union of Reform Forces and was a political disciple of liberal reformer Ante Marković. During the Bosnian War, he served as a representative in the National Assembly of Republika Srpska.
During that time, he formed the Independent Members of Parliament Caucus (Клуб независних посланика у Народној Скупштини Републике Српске, Klub nezavisnih poslanika u Narodnoj Skupštini Republike Srpske), which was the only political opposition to the Serb Democratic Party (Српска демократска странка, Srpska demokratska stranka), which held the absolute majority in the war-time parliament of the Republika Srpska. The caucus he chaired was to form the core of the Party of Independent Social Democrats (Stranka nezavisnih socijaldemokrata, or SNSD) in 1996, after the peace was signed as a result of the Dayton Agreement. He was elected as the first President of SNSD. The party later united with another social-democratic party to form the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, of which Dodik is President.
After conflict between Biljana Plavšić with the rest of the Radovan Karadžić's Serb Democratic Party (SDS), she founded a new political party, the Serb National Alliance (SNS). Early elections in Republika Srpska were held in 1997, after which Plavšić and her SNS closely cooperated with the smaller Serbian socialist parties (Socialist Party and Dodik's SNSD). Dodik was nominated prime minister of Republika Srpska, even though his party had only two seats in the National Assembly.
During the campaign for the 2006 general election, following Montenegrin independence, Dodik said that Republika Srpska didn't rule out its right for an independence referendum. At the election, Dodik's SNSD won 46.9% percent of votes, while the SDS won 19.5%. The international community saw him as a moderate democratic leader of Republika Srpska. Dodik had support from Western countries that were seeking to marginalise the Serbian nationalists. They believed that they had found an alternative in Dodik. After he became a prime minister, the West continued to support him at the expense of Serb nationalist parties. The Western countries promised that, if Dodik remains the prime minister, Republika Srpska would receive Western economic assistance. The OHR and the Western powers also wanted to ensure that he realised his promise to return 70,000 Croat and Bosniak refugees to Republika Srpska.
As promised, after Dodik won the election, Republika Srpska received financial aid from the European Union, that money was used to pay salaries for civil servants and the police. In mid-February 2007, Dodik traveled to the United States, where he was received by Madeleine Albright. She described him as "a breath of fresh air" and pledged €3.6 million of immediate aid. Republika Srpska also received aid from the British government in the same month. British Foreign Secretary, Robin Cook, said in front of the National Assembly of Republika Srpska that Dodik's government "did more in its first two weeks to improve the lives of the people than its predecessor did in two years."
Later, Dodik became the most powerful Serb politician in Bosnia and Herzegovina and later the West viewed him as "an unabashed nationalist and the greatest threat to Bosnia and Herzegovina's fragile, multiethnic peace." After he became a prime minister, Dodik became even more nationalist than the SDS. During a police reform in Republika Srpska, Dodik managed to create a nationalist profile for himself. Haris Silajdžić, meanwhile, won election for Bosniak member of the Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina. As he was a minister during the Bosnian War and close associate of Alija Izetbegović, Silajdžić criticised Republika Srpska as genocidal entity and called for its abolition. Moreover, Silajdžić advocated further centralisation of Bosnia and Herzegovina.
In 2007, Dodik was a guest on the Croatian talk show Nedjeljom u dva, in which he discussed, among other things, the return of Croatian refugees to Republika Srpska and the future status of a unified Bosnia and Herzegovina. On 5 May 2008, Dodik and Serbian President Boris Tadić inaugurated the Park Republika Srpska in Belgrade.
On 1 June 2008, during a visit to Zagreb, Dodik stated that Operation Storm was an act of ethnic cleansing carried out against Serbs and regarded it the "greatest ethnic cleansing committed after World War II". Stjepan Mesić criticised Dodik for encouraging dissatisfied Serbs in Croatia to live in Republika Srpska while neglecting to invite Bosniak and Croat refugees to return. Ivo Banac, president of the Croatian Helsinki Committee, stated that Croatia had been was defending itself at the time, and criticized Dodik's comments as provocations.
On 12 December 2008, Dodik stated that Muslim judges should not be allowed to preside over cases in Republika Srpska. Dodik elaborated that "it is unacceptable for the RS that Muslim judges try us and throw out complaints that are legally founded. And we think that it is only because they are Muslims, Bosniaks and that they have a negative orientation towards the RS, and we see the conspiracy that has been created." Dodik's comments were condemned as "extremely chauvinistic" by international institutions, the United States Embassy in Sarajevo and other officials.
On 9 September 2009, Dodik and Boris Tadić, President of Serbia, opened a school in Pale with the name "Serbia". Bosniak and Croat members of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina were not consulted about Tadić's trip.
On 27 October 2009, Dodik provided an RS government jet to pick up Biljana Plavšić, former President of Republika Srpska convicted of war crimes, and welcomed her to Belgrade after her early release from a Swedish prison. Dodik cited "purely moral reasons" for doing so. Željko Komšić, Croat member of the tripartite Presidency of Bosnia and Herzegovina, cancelled a planned visit to Sweden in protest.
In November 2009, Dodik refused to hand over requested documents detailing the financing of a government building complex in Banja Luka worth 110 million euro and the construction of a highway to international prosecutors at the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. Dodik stated that the court had no jurisdiction over Republika Srpska and filed a lawsuit against Deputy High Representative Raffi Gregorian and international prosecutors. Dodik accused Gregorian of leading a plot against Republika Srpska and said a bias against Serbs existed among central-level prosecutors and judges.
On 10 November 2009, Dodik revealed that he seriously considered giving Biljana Plavšić an office in the Senate. He stated "we are working on revising the law on the President of the Republic, which would award Plavšić, and other former presidents, the opportunity to enjoy some privileges like the office, monetary compensation, counselor, secretary, official car with a driver and so forth." Mladen Bosić, leader of the Serbian Democratic Party, criticized Dodik.
On 19 January 2010, outgoing Croatian president Stjepan Mesić stated that if Dodik were to call a referendum for independence for Republika Srpska he would send the Croatian military to intervene. In October 2010, Dodik narrowly won the RS presidential election already on the first round, thus becoming the 8th president of the republic.
On 30 November 2010, leaked United States diplomatic cables revealed that Dodik supported the Ahtisaari plan for the independence of Kosovo. The cable was sent by Daniel Fried, a U.S. State Department official, in May 2007 and quoted Dodik as stating that "Kosovo's recognition would follow after such a decision (to adopt the plan) by the UN Security Council". Dodik denied the accusations and stated that Daniel Fried was a liar and a troublemaker.
In May 2011, Dodik planned to have a referendum held in June that he viewed would reflect on the rejection of Bosnian state institutions, including the war crimes court. The High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, warned that the referendum could potentially jeopardize the Dayton Agreement. However, shortly after tensions increased in regards to the proposed referendum, Republika Srpska decided to cancel the referendum, after Dame Catherine Ashton, EU's High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy reassured Dodik in Banja Luka that EU will examine the complaints of RS on abuses in justice system of Bosnia and Herzegovina, and recommend the changes.
On 25 October 2011, Dodik spoke on "An American Foreign Policy Success Story: The Dayton Accords, Republika Srpska and Bosnia's European Integration" at Columbia University. The event was protested by numerous organizations including the Congress of North American Bosniaks, the Advisory Council for Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Canadian Institute for the Research of Genocide, the Bosnian American Genocide Institute and Education Center, and the International Center for Transitional Justice. Protests also took place while the speech was in progress.
In October 2012, Dodik proposed that Bosnia and Herzegovina's unified armed forces be abolished. On 3 November 2012, Dodik announced that the government of Republika Srpska would donate an undisclosed amount to help pay for the renovation of Serbian Orthodox Patriarch Irinej's old residence in Belgrade. Irinej commented that "this is a great opportunity to show practically the unity of the Serbian people and Serbian church outside our borders." Serb bloggers expressed "disagreement with both at a time of severe economic crisis and hardship" followed.
On 13 November 2012, Valentin Inzko, the High Representative for Bosnia and Herzegovina, cited Dodik as "the most frequent, although certainly not the sole, proponent of [Bosnian] state dissolution" in a report to the UN Security Council. He added that "the most recent and troubling of these is an initiative sent by the president to the Republika Srpska National Assembly attempting to create conditions that would unilaterally force the dissolution of the Armed Forces of Bosnia and Herzegovina." Vitaly Churkin, Russian Representative to the United Nations, defended Dodik and blamed the Bosniaks for the tension.
In November 2012, German state prosecution implicated Dodik and his son in a corruption case involving the Hypo Alpe-Adria-Bank International. The investigation concerned "several criminal offenses, including falsifying of documents, faking financial and business reports and fraud." The judicial system of Bosnia and Herzegovina initially investigated the case following a complaint filing, but "political pressures soon stopped the judicial bodies and the police in the RS." According to Domagoj Margetić, a Croatian journalist, Dodik had bribed and threatened him in order to not link him to the Hypo Group Alpe Adria affair story. On 26 November 2012, High Representative in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Valentin Inzko, confirmed that there was no investigation against President of Republika Srpska Milorad Dodik and his family in Germany or Austria.
On January 1, 2017, the U.S. Department of the Treasury's Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) imposed sanctions on Milorad Dodik pursuant to Executive Order 13304 and due to his role in defying the Constitutional Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina. "By obstructing the Dayton Accords, Milorad Dodik poses a significant threat to the sovereignty and territorial integrity of Bosnia and Herzegovina," said John E. Smith, Acting OFAC Director. "Today's action underscores the U.S. commitment to the Dayton Accords and supports international efforts for the country's continued European integration." Any property of Mr. Milorad Dodik within the U.S. jurisdiction is to be blocked and U.S. persons, individuals or companies, are prohibited in to engage in business transactions with him.
On October 7, 2018, Dodik was elected to Bosnia's three-person Presidency, representing the Serbs, after ousting incumbent Bosnian Serb President Mladen Ivanić.
Opinions on Tuzla and Markale
In 2009, Dodik stated that the Tuzla massacre was staged and questioned the Markale massacres at Sarajevo. The Tuzla municipality filed charges against Dodik over these statements. The city of Sarajevo filed criminal charges against Dodik for abuse of power, and inciting ethnic, racial and religious hatred.
The Office of the High Representative said Dodik denied the war crimes committed and stated that "When such skewed facts come from an official in a position of high responsibility, an official who is obliged to uphold the Dayton Peace Accords and cooperate with the Hague Tribunal, then they are particularly irresponsible and undermine not only the institutions responsible for upholding the rule of law, but the credibility of the individual himself".
Srebrenica genocide opinion
On 21 April 2010, the government of Dodik initiated a revision of the 2004 report saying that the numbers of killed were exaggerated and the report was manipulated by a former peace envoy. The Office of the High Representative responded and stated that: "The Republika Srpska government should reconsider its conclusions and align itself with the facts and legal requirements and act accordingly, rather than inflicting emotional distress on the survivors, torture history and denigrate the public image of the country".
On 12 July 2010, at the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre, Dodik declared that he acknowledges the killings that happened on the site, but does not regard what happened at Srebrenica as genocide, differing from the conclusions of the ICTY and of the International Court of Justice. "If a genocide happened then it was committed against Serb people of this region where women, children and the elderly were killed en masse," Dodik said, in reference to eastern Bosnia.
In March 2016, he named a student dormitory in Pale in honor of the wartime Serb leader Radovan Karadžić. The event took place only a few days before Karadžić was convicted for war crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia.
He is married to Snježana Dodik, with whom he has two children.