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Opposition Serb Candidate Leading Bosnian Presidency Vote

Social Democrat Mladen Ivanic (center, in a file photo from March)
Social Democrat Mladen Ivanic (center, in a file photo from March)

Bosnia-Herzegovina's Central Election Commission says an opposition candidate is winning the election for the Serbian seat in the country's tripartite presidency.

Social Democrat (SDS) Mladen Ivanic was leading Zeljko Cvijanovic of the nationalist Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) in a tight race with more than 90 percent of the votes counted, election commission head Stjepan Mikic said on October 13.

Milorad Dodik, the president of Republika Srpska and head of the SNSD, had conceded the race to Ivanic in what would be viewed as a major upset for his party.

Dodik himself was locked in a close battle for reelection as president of the Bosnian Serb entity with a narrow 47.1 percent to 45.2 percent lead over opposition candidate Ognjen Tadic.

Dodik -- who has spoken of making Republika Srpska independent -- said he had an insurmountable 12,000 vote lead and claimed to have won the election.

Election authorities said early on October 13 that Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic were comfortably ahead in the races for the Bosniak and Croatian seats, respectively, on the tripartite presidency.

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

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

Izetbegovic campaigned on the need for a strong, unified state, while Covic favors the creation of a separate Croatian entity within Bosnia.

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.

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

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

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

Besides choosing the three-member presidency and a national parliament, voters also elect 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 of 10 self-administered cantons are also up for grabs.

There were nearly 8,000 candidates running 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 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.

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

Dodik said after casting his ballot that he expected 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.

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 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 would bring change.

He said he expects "changes" and that a high turnout means "changes are coming."

Meanwhile, the European Union welcomed what it called "the overall orderly conduct" of the elections.

In a statement, the EU said, "we look forward to the early formation of Bosnia and Herzegovina's institutions and governments at all levels. They must
begin to work on addressing key challenges for the country as soon as possible."

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