Serb nationalist claims victory in Bosnia

Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik claimed victory in early vote count

Photo: EPA Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and President of the Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina, Milorad Dodik

A pro-Russia Serbian nationalist leader Milorad Dodik has claimed victory with 55 percent of votes over moderate incumbent Mladen Ivanic to take the Serbs' seat at the tripartite presidency, according to preliminary results from Bosnia's Election Commission. The victory for Milorad Dodik, who is considered a close ally of Russia’s president Vladimir Putin, could result in exacerbating ethnic rivalries in the Balkan nation and stalling country’s bid for membership in the EU.

Meanwhile, the moderate Croat candidate, Zeljko Komsic, who already served two terms in the presidency, defeated nationalist Croat incumbent of Bosnia's presidency, Dragan Covic, bagging 50 percent of the votes. Sefik Dzaferovic won the Bosniak seat of the presidency with 38 percent of votes.

“It’s a clear cut victory,” Mr. Dodik said in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serbian autonomous region of Bosnia. “I don’t care who the other two representatives in the presidency are. I am going there, to this presidency, to work above all and only for the interests of Serbs.”

Sunday's election saw more than 3.3m Bosnians cast ballots to elect an array of institutions in the country's complex governing system, which was created by a peace accord that ended the war 25 years ago. The country consists of two regional mini-states - a Serb-run and a Bosniak-Croat entity - with joint institutions in a central government.

The West has hoped prospects of EU and NATO membership would encourage nations in the Balkans to solve their disputes stemming from the dissolution of the former Yugoslavia. Thus the ballot was seen as a test of whether Bosnia will move towards integration in the EU and NATO or remain entrenched in rivalries stemming from the 1992-95 war, which left 100,000 people dead and millions homeless. With Dodik advocating the eventual separation of Serbs from Bosnia, his election to the three-person presidency deals a blow to efforts to strengthen unity in the country.

"The will of the people leaves no doubt what they want," Dodik said, following the preliminary official results, adding that voters "punished" his opponent for his "servile policies toward the West".

"No one can help [the opposition], not even a hundred American or British embassies, as they have been helping them so far. Therefore the will of people is unquestionable," Dodik said at a news conference on Sunday.  

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