Bosnians were voting Sunday in a general election that could install a pro-Russian nationalist to a top post and cement the ethnic divisions of a country that faced a brutal war 25 years ago. The ballot is seen as a test of whether Bosnia will move toward integration in the European Union and NATO or […]
Bosnians were voting Sunday in a general election that could install a pro-Russian nationalist to a top post and cement the ethnic divisions of a country that faced a brutal war 25 years ago.
The ballot is seen as a test of whether Bosnia will move toward integration in the European Union and NATO or remain entrenched in rivalries stemming from the 1992-95 war.
Some 3.3 million people are eligible to vote for an array of institutions in Bosnia’s complex governing system, which was created by a peace accord that ended the war that killed 100,000 people and left millions homeless.
The country consists of a Serb regional government and a similar Muslim-Croat entity joined in a central government. Voters are casting ballots for the three-person Bosnian presidency, the Serb president, and the two entities’ parliaments and cantonal authorities, AP reported.
There have been no reliable opinion polls ahead of the election. The campaign was marred by divisive rhetoric and allegations of irregularities that fueled tensions.
Bosnia’s Serbs and Croats want to move closer to their ethnic kin in neighboring Serbia and Croatia, while the Muslims want to keep Bosnia together. The issue was at the core of the 1990s’ war.
The main focus is on the race for Bosnia’s three-member presidency, because of the candidacy of hard-line Serb President Milorad Dodik, who advocates eventual Serb separation from Bosnia.
Dodik is a key Balkan ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin and his victory would mean stronger Russian influence. The current Serb member of the presidency and a relative moderate, Mladen Ivanic, is running too.
The main ethnic Croatian presidential candidate, Dragan Covic, is also dashing hopes that Bosnia will be strengthened as a multi-ethnic union. Covic seeks the formation of a third government body, a Croat mini-state that would spell further fragmentation for the fragile nation.
Liberal candidates who back a civil society free of ethnic divisions largely have been pushed to the margins in Sunday’s vote. Observers say widespread voter apathy also diminishes chances of an election surprise, despite high unemployment and widespread corruption.
In a show of widespread popular discontent with Bosnia’s politicians, thousands of people rallied at anti-corruption protests Friday in Sarajevo, the capital, and in the main Serb city of Banja Luka.