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Viewing cable 10SARAJEVO134, BOSNIA: RADONCIC POISED TO BE A NEW PLAYER IN

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Reference ID Created Released Classification Origin
10SARAJEVO134 2010-02-09 12:12 2010-12-09 21:09 SECRET//NOFORN Embassy Sarajevo
VZCZCXRO9701
RR RUEHDBU RUEHFL RUEHKW RUEHLA RUEHNP RUEHROV RUEHSL
DE RUEHVJ #0134/01 0401233
ZNY SSSSS ZZH
R 091233Z FEB 10
FM AMEMBASSY SARAJEVO
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC 1374
INFO RUEHZL/EUROPEAN POLITICAL COLLECTIVE
RHEHNSC/NSC WASHDC
RUEAIIA/CIA WASHINGTON DC
RHEFDIA/DIA WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/JCS WASHINGTON DC
RUEKJCS/SECDEF WASHDC
XMT AMCONSUL STRASBOURG
S E C R E T SECTION 01 OF 04 SARAJEVO 000134 

NOFORN 
SIPDIS 

EUR/SCE FOR HYLAND, FOOKS 
NSC FOR HOVENIER 

E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/09/2020 
TAGS: PREL PGOV PINR KDEM BK
SUBJECT: BOSNIA: RADONCIC POISED TO BE A NEW PLAYER IN 
BOSNIAK POLITICS 

REF: A. 06 SARAJEVO 2320 
B. 09 SARAJEVO 1139 
C. 09 SARAJEVO 226 
D. 09 SARAJEVO 103 
E. 08 SARAJEVO 1593 
F. 09 SARAJEVO 1169 
G. SARAJEVO 61 
H. SARAJEVO 110 

Classified By: Ambassador Charles English for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d). 

Summary 
------- 

1. (S/NF) The emergence of a new Bosniak party, led by the 
powerful, reportedly corrupt, and sometimes vindictive media 
mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, is likely to create further rifts in 
the Bosniak political scene, particularly amid the campaign 
for the October 2010 general elections. Radoncic has the 
support of the leader of the Islamic community. Also, 
Radoncic's ownership and direct control of the most 
widely-read daily newspaper in Bosnia will ensure that his 
campaign message is well propagated. Radoncic's reputation 
for questionable business ventures with partners from across 
the political spectrum, combined with his likely desire for 
influence over the judiciary to escape prosecution for 
corruption, suggests that he will seek political alliances 
based on lucrative personal prospects, rather than ideology 
or even ethnic affiliation. Although it is too early to make 
concrete predictions, Radoncic's party is poised to capture 
votes primarily from Haris Silajdzic's Party for BiH (SBiH), 
as well as a wide swath of apathetic voters allured by his 
pledges to fix the economy. End summary. 

The Man, the Legend 
------------------- 

2. (C) Fahrudin Radoncic rose from relative poverty and 
obscurity after the 1992-95 BiH war to become the founder and 
owner of Bosnia's leading publishing company, Avaz 
Publishing. This company is known especially for its 
production of the country's highest-circulation daily 
newspaper, Dnevni Avaz, but also for a small television news 
show and a number of widely-read magazines, such as Global. 
The success of Avaz has given Radoncic significant control of 
the Bosniak media. Avaz therefore has proven a powerful tool 
against Radoncic's opponents, particularly the police 
authorities investigating his role in corruption scandals. 
Although not a veteran politician himself, Radoncic through 
Avaz has played an active role in politics for over a decade, 
with Bosniak political candidates vying for his media 
support. Candidates whom Avaz endorses for the Bosniak 
member of the Tri-Presidency -- most recently, Party for BiH 
(SBiH) chairman Haris Silajdzic in 2006 -- usually succeed in 
elections. Radoncic also cultivates wide international ties, 
and Sead Numanovic, editor-in-chief of Avaz, is one of the 
most well-connected people in Bosnia. 

The Scandals 
------------ 

3. (S/NF) Radoncic is widely believed to be responsible for 
corrupt business practices, most notably his role in a 
scandal involving the Federation Development Bank (FDB) (ref 
A). Radoncic admitted to having hired Ramiz Dzaferovic -- 
SDA member, director of the FDB -- to conduct an audit of 
Avaz through Dzaferovic's personal audit company. At the 
same time, Dzaferovic through the FDB gave Radoncic a loan of 
KM 22.5 million -- which the FDB had allocated for 
agriculture -- for the construction of Radoncic's Avaz Tower 
in Sarajevo. Separately, local media recently reported 
alleged ties between Radoncic and international drug dealer 
Kelmendi, which led Radoncic to launch a full-scale attack in 
the pages of Avaz against the police officials working on 
that case. Also, staff of the Office of the High 
Representative (OHR) recently linked Radoncic to an 
international money laundering scheme. This allegation, 
which was leaked to the press, sparked a smear campaign in 
Avaz against the Principal Deputy High Representative, a 
State Department employee on detail to OHR, somewhat belying 
Radoncic's claims that one of his priorities will be to 

SARAJEVO 00000134 002 OF 004 


cooperate with the international community. 

The Entree into Politics 
------------------------ 

4. (C) In September 2009, Radoncic launched a new Bosniak 
political party, the Alliance for a Better Future of BiH 
(SBB-BiH) (ref B). Radoncic is almost certainly seeking 
political status in order to secure protection from the 
investigation of his illegal business deals by wielding 
government influence over the judiciary. Moreover, now may 
be a personally appealing time for Radoncic to enter 
politics, as media outlets besides Avaz indicate that 
Radoncic's business is struggling and that Avaz's chief rival 
daily newspaper, Oslobodjenje, is rapidly catching up to Avaz 
in its sales. This suggests that the pragmatic Radoncic is 
entering the political scene to seek lucrative deals wherever 
he can find them, rather than choosing partners based on 
ideology or even ethnic affiliation. This approach would 
make him an appealing ally for Republika Srpska (RS) Prime 
Minister Milorad Dodik, who also dabbles in business and is 
himself under investigation for corruption. Dodik therefore 
may see Radoncic as his ideal Bosniak interlocutor. Indeed, 
Radoncic told the DCM in January that he has met with Dodik, 
as well as Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ)-BiH President 
Dragan Covic -- who has been indicted for corruption and is 
forging a closer relationship with Dodik (septel) -- and has 
a good relationship with both men. Moreover, the fact that 
Avaz has kept mostly quiet on the very issue that it could 
use to galvanize the Bosniak populace ahead of the election 
-- rhetoric on a referendum in the RS -- has led to 
speculation that discussions on a partnership between Dodik 
and Radoncic may already be underway. 

The Setbacks 
------------ 

5. (S/NF) Despite any possible musings of a deal with Dodik, 
SBB-BiH appears to be off to a rocky start. Initial polls 
suggest that the party has a small following, and Radoncic 
has yet to attract any well-known personalities to join his 
party. His most notable party member besides himself is 
former state-level PM and former SDA member Adnan Terzic, 
although Terzic's following within SDA was tenuous at best 
when he left the party. The other big name in SBB-BiH is 
Haris Basic, a former SDA member whom the Council of 
Ministers suspended as director of the Foreign Investment 
Promotion Agency (FIPA) due to the BiH Court's indictment 
against him for illegally issuing transport licenses. 
Radoncic also has not yet managed to form a founding party 
congress despite the high attendance at his kickoff rallies 
in Sarajevo, Tuzla, Zenica, and elsewhere. Also, Radoncic -- 
whose family is rom the Sandzak region in Serbia -- carries 
a stong "Sandzak" accent when he speaks, which is anathma 
to many Bosnians. Moreover, he lacks persona charisma and 
is generally uncomfortable and awkard with interlocutors who 
are unfamiliar to him. 

The Weapons 
----------- 

6. (S/NF) Despite these initial setbacks, Radoncic's 
expectations for electoral success are high. Through public 
hearings conducted by the BiH parliamentary working group on 
changes to the election law, Radoncic in January proposed an 
increase in the threshold for a party's representation in 
Parliament from three to five percent at the state and entity 
level. The parliamentary working group on changes to the 
election law rejected his proposal. Radoncic's most powerful 
weapon during the elections will be Avaz, and he already is 
using it as an advertising venue for his party. The economy, 
a major concern for Bosniak voters, is one of Avaz's key 
pre-election themes, as well as the incompetence of BiH's 
current leadership, particularly Bosniak tri-Presidency 
member Haris Silajdzic. Amid the country-wide economic 
crisis, these messages may well resonate with apathetic 
Bosniak voters. Indeed, Terzic told the DCM that this is one 
of SBB-BiH's key target groups in the election campaign. 

The SBiH Political Vacuum 
------------------------- 

SARAJEVO 00000134 003 OF 004 



7. (C) Radoncic's entree into the Bosniak political scene 
will most likely come at the expense of the deteriorating 
SBiH. SBiH garnered poor results in the 2008 municipal 
elections, and our SBiH contacts continue to tell us of the 
disgruntlement within the party with Silajdzic's poor 
leadership. Bakir Izetbegovic, who is a friend of Silajdzic, 
has suggested to us that Silajdzic may in fact be preparing 
to leave the political scene. Moreover, the Islamic 
community, which had previously endorsed Silajdzic, now 
supports Radoncic at the expense of SBiH. Avaz consistently 
maligns Silajdzic, calling him a "lying President" and a 
"mafia godfather" who steals from the poor. Radoncic also is 
seeking to fill Silajdzic's self-proclaimed role as the key 
Bosniak interlocutor with the USG. For example, his visit to 
Washington in February to attend the prayer breakfast, as 
well as his speech at the U.S. Institute of Peace, received 
widespread press throughout BiH, dwarfing that of the other 
BiH attendees. 

The Boost from the Islamic Community 
------------------------------------ 

8. (S/NF) Silajdzic's victory in the 2006 presidential race 
stemmed from the same sources Radoncic has at his disposal -- 
Dnevni Avaz and Islamic community head Reis-ul-ulema Mustafa 
Ceric, whom Avaz quoted almost daily in the run-up to the 
2006 elections and who was seen with Silajdzic at a number of 
important Islamic events (ref C). Although Radoncic is not 
at all devout, he and Reis Ceric have enjoyed a close 
relationship for over a year, most likely tied to Radoncic's 
gift of one million KM (approximately 714,000 USD) for the 
construction of the Reis's headquarters and residence in 
Sarajevo. Additionally, Reis Ceric is the only public figure 
whom Avaz has never criticized. Avaz regularly features the 
Reis on the front page, reports on his travels, and mocks 
media outlets that criticize him. Avaz even posited a 
"different interpretation" of the conviction in February 2009 
of an imam in Travnik on charges of pedophilia (ref D). 
Radoncic openly echoes the Reis's outcry against 
"Islamophobia" (ref E), most recently attacking former 
editor-in-chief of Federation TV (FTV) Duska Jurisic, who 
reported on Radoncic's role in the FDB scandal. Radoncic 
stated that "we cannot permit a person who is not Muslim to 
be an editor in our Islamic community." Any overt 
endorsements by Reis Ceric of Radoncic's party would give 
Radoncic a boost among religious voters who see Tihic as 
overly secular; conversely, Radoncic can revel in his 
irreverent understanding of Islam if he so chooses. SDA 
Deputy President Asim Sarajlic told us that he overheard the 
Reis tell Radoncic at a reception, "People need to see you at 
mosque," to which Radoncic allegedly replied, "But Reis, I 
don't know any prayers!" Later, in a theatrical aside during 
a lunch with DCM, Radoncic held his wine glass aloft and said 
"I can't support radical Islam: I would be their first 
victim!" 

The Hurdle: SDA 
--------------- 

9. (C) Although it is too early to make concrete 
predictions, at this point it seems that even with the 
support of the Islamic community, Radoncic will be unlikely 
to make great gains in these elections at the expense of SDA. 
SDA has a well-established voting base, particularly in 
rural and semi-urban areas. Bosniaks considered SDA and its 
first President, Alija Izetbegovic, the protectors of their 
people during the war, and the limited success of splinter 
parties like SBiH in recent elections suggests that Bosniaks 
choose established parties over charismatic new leaders when 
they feel threatened (ref F). Even with SBiH's 
Tri-Presidency victory in 2006, SDA remained the largest 
Bosniak party, capturing more seats in both Federation and 
state legislatures than SBiH. Moreover, although Radoncic 
wields significant media power, he relies on SDA for 
financial support, due to SDA's connections with the FDB. 
Avaz treats Tihic with caution -- including by sidelining 
Tihic's repeated, direct attacks on Radoncic -- suggesting 
that Radoncic recognizes the risk in burning bridges with the 
most powerful Bosniak party. 


SARAJEVO 00000134 004 OF 004 


The Impact: Fractious Bosniak Politics 
-------------------------------------- 

10. (S/NF) Although Radoncic treads carefully with SDA, he 
bears a longstanding animosity with the other major 
Federation-based party, the Social Democratic Party (SDP), 
stemming largely from his personal dislike of party President 
Zlatko Lagumdzija. However, Radoncic -- genuinely shocking 
Avaz editor Numanovic, who was also present -- told the DCM 
in January that he had recently met with Lagumdzija for over 
two hours to discuss a possible post-election coalition, 
which he may see as a means of sidelining SDA. Nonetheless, 
Avaz's consistent disparaging of Lagumdzija and Silajdzic -- 
as well as Radoncic's ties to the Reis, who also is on the 
outs with both men -- makes it less likely that either party 
will want to work with Radoncic before or after the 
elections. These inflammatory comments are likely to 
increase as the year progresses, which will contribute to a 
Bosniak campaign that may well be based more on personal 
attacks than on any potentially unifying issue. A strong 
showing for Radoncic in the elections would put him in a 
position to negotiate a place in a post-election coalition. 
Even if Radoncic serves in opposition, he will become one 
more strong personality in Bosniak politics that could 
undermine initiatives from moderate Bosniak parties. 
Moreover, Radoncic is powerful, due to his business ties and 
the strong influence of Avaz. He may be able to seriously 
damage any party inside or outside the coalition that 
challenges him. As the economic crisis shows no signs of 
abating, Radoncic could become a greater force, given the 
hide-bound lethargy and backward-looking politics of many of 
his Bosniak opponents. 

Comment 
------- 

11. (S/NF) The collapse of the Prud process (ref G), the 
political and economic woes in the Federation (ref H), and 
the battle over the mayor of Mostar (ref I) are recent 
examples of the extent to which fractious Bosniak politics 
contribute to paralysis at the state and Federation level. 
Tihic's attempts to shore up the state have been held in 
check by opposition on his right flank -- Silajdzic, the 
Islamic community, and even Lagumdzija, who sees it as his 
duty as opposition leader to oppose any initiative the ruling 
coalition supports. If Radoncic succeeds in establishing a 
foothold in a new government, Tihic will face a more 
difficult battle in securing a unified Bosniak response to 
anti-state behavior from the RS and in taking a constructive 
approach to such initiatives as constitutional reform. 
Moreover, an alliance between Radoncic and Dodik, perceived 
as two of the country's more corrupt leaders, would send a 
very discouraging message to those in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
who are seeking the rule of law, especially the Bosniak 
intellectual elite. 

Comment Cont'd 
-------------- 

12. (S/NF) At the same time -- however distasteful it may be 
to us or others -- if Radoncic and gains enough authority 
through the October 2010 elections to join a ruling coalition 
at the state or Federation level, his comparative lack of 
discord with RS leaders and pragmatic approach on issues 
ranging from economic development to constitutional reform 
and Euro-Atlantic integration could perhaps contribute to a 
more peaceful political situation in Bosnia and Herzegovina 
over the near term. 
ENGLISH