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Nationalists Lead In Race For Bosnia's Tripartite Presidency

  • RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Dragan Covic casts his ballot. He campaigned on the creation of a Croat entity within Bosnia.

Dragan Covic casts his ballot. He campaigned on the creation of a Croat entity within Bosnia.

Official partial results after Bosnia's October 12 elections show that nationalists appear to be in the lead for the country's tripartite presidency.

Election authorities said early on October 13 that Bakir Izetbegovic, Dragan Covic, and Zeljka Cvijanovic were the front-runners in the race for the tripartite state presidency, as the Muslim Bosniak, Croat, and Serb representatives, respectively.

Stjepan Mikic, head of the Central Electoral Commission, said the estimates were based on 76.5 percent of the counted ballots.

Izetbegovic, son of Bosnia's late wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic, won just over 33 percent of the votes.

His main opponent, local media mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, garnered almost 27 percent.

Izetbegovic campaigned on the need for a strong, unified state, Covic on the creation of a Croat entity within Bosnia, while Cvijanovic is part of a Serb bloc that advocates Bosnia's dissolution.

Izetbegovic and Covic have already declared victory, with the former saying his SDA party would be a "leading force" in the country and a "basis for all future coalitions" to form a government.

The Balkan country held complex parliamentary and presidential polls for more than 500 political posts on October 12.

The election has been seen as key to breaking a political stalemate in the country.

By the close of polls, however, only 54.1 percent of Bosnia's 3.3 million eligible voters had cast ballots -- less than the 56 percent turnout of the previous polls in 2010.

Besides choosing the three-member presidency and a national parliament, voters also elected lawmakers and leaders of Bosnia's two entities -- the Serb-run Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

In the Muslim-Croat Federation, seats for parliaments in the 10 self-administered cantons are also up for grabs.

Once a pro-Western reformer who has turned into a nationalist firebrand, incumbent President Milorad Dodik said after casting his ballot that he expects the elections "to confirm the stability of Republika Srpska."

Once a pro-Western reformer who has turned into a nationalist firebrand, incumbent President Milorad Dodik said after casting his ballot that he expects the elections "to confirm the stability of Republika Srpska."

After presenting the partial results for the tripartite presidency, the Central Electoral Commission said it will announce preliminary results for all the 518 posts at 2 p.m. local time on October 13.

There were nearly 8,000 candidates standing for 65 parties, 24 coalitions, and independent lists in the country's two autonomous entities.

The elections followed violent civil unrest in February, sparked by corruption and poverty, amid widespread discontent with the authorities' reaction to catastrophic floods that hit the country in May, and as ethnic divisions stemming from the war continue to block reforms.

Bosnia is one of the poorest countries in Europe, with unemployment at 44 percent and youth joblessness even higher. The average salary is $525.

Bakir Izetbegovic

Bakir Izetbegovic

Hopes of membership in the European Union have been diminished by the failure to meet reform targets.

In the race for the presidency of Republika Srpska -- Bosnia's Serb entity -- the competition pits incumbent President Milorad Dodik and a coalition dominated by his Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) against a bloc led by the Serb Democratic Party (SDS).

Dodik said after casting his ballot that he expects the elections "to confirm the stability of Republika Srpska."

Once a pro-Western reformer who has turned into a nationalist firebrand, Dodic keeps pushing the separatist agenda and boasts of his close ties to Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The SDS accuses Dodik's administration of corruption and dismisses separatist talk.

The party, which was founded by war crimes suspect Radovan Karadzic, led Bosnian Serbs during the war as they attempted to secede from newly independent Bosnia.

In the Muslim-Croat Federation, the Croatian Democratic Union (HDZ) is expected to continue its dominance among the Croats, who still hope for the establishment of their own region.

Among the Muslim Bosniaks, who generally want a stronger central government, the primary contest will be between the multiethnic Social Democrats (SDP) and the main Bosniak party, Democratic Action (SDA).

Ognjen Tadic, an opposition presidential candidate in Republika Srpska, was hopeful that the election means that "changes are coming."

The current governing system resulted from a constitutional arrangement which was part of the Dayton Peace Accords that ended the country's 1992-95 war.

The highly decentralized and expensive system frequently paralyzes decision-making, blocking economic development and efforts to create jobs.

With additional reporting by Reuters, AFP, and balkaninsight.com
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