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Serb Nationalist Wins Bosnia Presidency Seat In Ethnically Charged Election


Sefik Dzaferovic (left), Zeljko Komsic (center), and Milorad Dodik
Sefik Dzaferovic (left), Zeljko Komsic (center), and Milorad Dodik

Bosnian Serb nationalist Milorad Dodik is set to win his community's seat on Bosnia-Herzegovina’s three-member presidency, as ethnic Serbian, Muslim, and Croatian parties dominated their regions in the October 7 poll likely to slow the country's advance toward EU integration.

Bosnia consists of two entities: the ethnic Serb-dominated Republika Srpska and the Muslim-Croat Federation of Bosniaks and Croats. The two entities are linked by joint state-level institutions, including a tripartite presidency.

The main Bosnian Muslim party said its candidate, Sefik Dzaferovic, will be the Muslim representative in the presidency, while Croats returned Zelijko Komsic to their seat.

Dodik, who has led Republika Srpska since 2006, defeated moderate incumbent Mladen Ivanic to take his place in the tripartite presidency. Ivanic conceded defeat.

Meanwhile, Dodik's close ally, Zeljka Cvijanovic, has claimed victory in the race for the presidency of Republika Srpska.

Voters on October 7 were choosing leaders for the three-member presidency, as well as parliamentary legislatures and canton assemblies in what may be the world's most complicated political system.

The largest Bosnian Muslim party, the Party of Democratic Action (SDA) , secured the most votes in the national parliament and its Bosnian Muslim-dominated cantons ahead of the largest Bosnian Croat party, HDZ, and Dodik's SNSD.

The SNSD, along with coalition partners, was on course to dominate both the Serbian faction in the national parliament and the legislature of Republika Srpska.

HDZ and its coalition partners won the most votes of Croats in the national parliament and in the majority Croatian cantons.

Turnout was 53.3 percent of the country’s 3.3 million eligible voters, election officials said.

No major incidents were reported on election day.

Dodik, who has close links with Russia and favors a split-up of the Balkan country, told a news conference early on October 8 that his “first priority will be the position of the Serb people and of Republika Srspka.”

“I believe that Bosnia-Herzegovina also may progress if everyone is respected,” the head of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats said in Banja Luka, the administrative center of the Serb entity.

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Dzaferovic of the SDA was leading for the Bosniak seat in the presidency with 38 percent of the vote. "I am leading and have won the seat in Bosnia's presidency," he told a news conference.

Komsic, a Social Democrat who has served two terms in the presidency, was leading with 49.5 percent of the vote over nationalist Dragan Covic of the HDZ.

Covic, who had 38 percent, has called for the creation of a separate entity for Croats. He conceded defeat but warned of a "never-seen-before" crisis in the country.

Komsic sought to reassure all voters, saying, "I will serve all citizens, even if they didn't vote for me."

The elections have heightened tensions between Bosniak Muslim and Bosnian Serb officials, who have been at loggerheads since the 1995 U.S.-brokered Dayton peace accords ended the wars that ripped Yugoslavia apart.

The vote came with Bosnia sitting at a crossroads: Either it continues to pursue its path toward deeper Euro-Atlantic ties, or its ethnic rivalries further derail progress toward European Union membership and NATO integration.

Though the Bosnian war ended in 1995, wounds from the three-year conflict that claimed some 100,000 lives and displaced about 2 million people continue to fester

With reporting by AP, Reuters, and AFP

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