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“Republika Srpska will have a referendum”: The rhetorical politics of Milorad Dodik

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  20 November 2018

Gerard Toal
School of Public and International Affairs, Virginia Tech, Alexandria, Virginia, USA
E-mail address:


The theory and practice of referenda played an important role in the break-up of Yugoslavia, especially in Bosnia-Herzegovina (BiH), where two divisive referenda preceded the Bosnian War of 1992-1995. After the failure of constitutional reforms in April 2006, Milorad Dodik, then Republika Srpska's prime minister, suggested that Republika Srpska had the right to hold its own referendum, with separation from Bosnia an unstated (yet soon openly discussed) aspiration. This paper presents an account of the emergence of Republika Srpska referendum discourse and how it was articulated by Milorad Dodik to establish his SNSD party as the dominant force in Republika Srpska. It documents the dialogical context and rhetorical gambits used by Dodik to articulate the discourse, tracing how it evolved in response to regional events and elections. The paper concludes by considering the limits of interpreting Dodik as a demagogue and of a discourse-centered approach to political rhetoric.

Copyright © 2013 Association for the Study of Nationalities 

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