A UNC Charlotte professor who ran unsuccessfully for president last year in his native Bosnia says he's building a slate of candidates for local elections there next year -- and plans to run again for president in three years.
Mirsad Hadzikadic took a leave of absence from his job as a UNC Charlotte information technology professor to run for the Bosnian presidency -- one of three rotating seats on the Bosnia-Herzegovina presidential council. He finished fourth, with nearly 10% of the vote -- more than many expected. And that was despite evidence of election fraud, he said.
"But after the elections, I got at least 5,000 emails from mostly young people who said, 'Mirsad, please, please, please continue If you leave now (it) would have been better if you had not even showed up,'" Hadzikadic said Friday, during a brief return visit to Charlotte. "And that was sort of an obligation created."
Since then, he has remained in Sarajevo to build a new party, called Platform for Progress. After just one year, he said it's the seventh largest of about 70 parties, with 6,200 members. And Hadzikadic said it's one of only a few with a national, rather than mostly local, following.
The party supports closer integration with Europe, instead of nationalism, and wants candidates who will break the country's cycle of corruption.
"It is very important now for us to find the people who will be the faces of our movement and those who live our principles: that they are honest, that they are capable, that the country's first, for them, and not themselves, not their own self-interest," Hadzikadic said.
Since winning last year's elections, the presidential council members have yet to form a government. Hadzikadic said there's a feeling of "constant tension." People are worried about ethnic divisions, the possibility of war, and economic collapse, and many are leaving the country.
The official population figure is 3.5 million, but he says many wonder if it's closer to 3 million.
So Hadzikadic is now recruiting members to stand for local mayor and council elections in 2021. And the party plans to field candidates in the next parliamentary election in 2022, when he'll run again for president.
"I am going to run. At least that's my intent," he said. "And we will have other people on the ballot, under the banner of Platform for Progress, for as many seats in the parliament as we can."
He said the party now has offices in 45 cities in Bosnia-Herzogovina as well as 11 countries. That foreign presence may be important, given the exodus of Bosnians -- especially younger people.
Hadzikadic is still teaching classes remotely and working with PhD students at UNC Charlotte. He has been back in Charlotte for a couple of weeks to teach and check in with his grad students.