SARAJEVO — Thousands protested in a dozen Bosnian cities Monday to demand that politicians be replaced by non-partisan experts who can better address the nearly 40 per cent unemployment and rampant corruption.
It was the sixth day of the worst unrest the Balkan country has seen since the end of the 1991-95 Bosnian war, which killed 100,000.
“My father, mother and brother are unemployed,” said Meliha, a 34-year-old former art professor who earns 7 euros ($9.55) a day waiting tables. She refused to give her last name fearing she would lose that job as well. “I’ve had enough!”
Two elderly people held a banner noting that one politician’s monthly salary equals four years of the average pension payment.
Protesters say overpaid politicians are obsessed with inter-ethnic bickering.
“They are living in a different world, completely disconnected from the people,” said Anes Podic, a computer engineer without a steady job.
Protesters have gathered daily by the presidency in Sarajevo, the capital, and in a dozen other cities. They set the presidency and other government buildings ablaze on Friday, with graffiti on one reading: “He who sows hunger, reaps anger.”
Local governments in five cities, including Sarajevo, have resigned long before October general elections.
The peace deal that ended the war created a complex political system in which more than 150 ministries govern Bosnia’s 4 million people. Corruption is widespread and high taxes eat away at paychecks. One in five Bosnians lives below the poverty line.
Svjetlana Nedimovic, an unemployed political scientist, accused the European Union — whose 28 foreign ministers were discussing Bosnia on Monday — of turning its back on her country even as it supports protesters in Ukraine.
In Brussels, EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton urged the authorities to guarantee the right to peaceful protests and to act on the people’s demands.