Branković Resigns

A groundswell of unrest that began with an investigation into a sweetheart housing deal, spread to ordinary citizens and culminated with last month’s indictment has cost Prime Minister Nedžad Branković his job.

Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina Prime Minister Branković resigned Wednesday, after heeding calls by party leaders, who pulled their support in the face of a stream of revelations concerning a scheme to provide virtually free housing to select political allies and colleagues.

In a story titled ‘A Lucky Real Estate Deal’ nearly two years ago, The Center for Investigative Reporting in Sarajevo (CIN) disclosed how Branković used privatization vouchers worth about 900 KM on the street to buy a Sarajevo apartment now valued at 500,000 KM.

Branković’s dim hope of retaining power ended early this week, when rival Sulejman Tihić won election as president of the SDA party. Tihić has repeatedly said a prime minister under indictment should not be leading the country. Who will succeed Branković, and when, is being discussed. The CIN story on Branković’s housing deal resonated with citizens, who staged a billboard campaign against the prime minister, held rallies and painted graffiti messages relaying their disgust.

When Branković responded by demanding that police take ‘quick action’ against the graffiti artists, the protests grew louder. Members of a group calling itself ‘Citizen’s Action’ sent more than 4,000 e-mails to police, claiming to be authors of the graffiti.

Branković is not the only public official caught in the scandal. Former FBiH Prime Minister Edhem Bičakčić and his former Deputy, Dragan Čović, are charged with orchestrating an elaborate housing scheme that used 7.8 million KM from the public budget to buy or renovate 64 apartments for various government officials.

CIN’s original story explained how Branković wound up with a 132-meter home in Ciglane while director of Energoinvest.

The private company and the government decided to jointly buy him the place. To this day, no one has ever explained why.