SARAJEVO -- Bosnians voted in local elections on November 15 that were delayed due to the country’s budget crisis, amid concerns that a surge in coronavirus infections could keep many voters away.
About 3.3 million voters are eligible to help choose town and municipal councils and mayors in the country's two autonomous regions -- the Bosniak-Croat Federation and Republica Srpska -- as well as the neutral Brcko district.
Some 38.8 percent of voters had cast their ballots by 4 p.m., three hours before polls closed. Preliminary results are expected by midnight.
The number of coronavirus cases and related deaths in Bosnia-Herzegovina have been rising sharply in recent weeks, with health authorities now reporting nearly 72,000 infections, including more than 1,800 fatalities.
In order to mitigate the risk of infection, voters at polling stations are required to observe strict physical distancing, wear face masks, and wash their hands. Voter temperatures are also being taken and polling stations are regularly disinfected.
Dozens of mobile polling teams have been dispatched to take ballots to citizens under quarantine.
In Srebrenica, the head of the Bosniak political coalition Moja Adresa (My Address) complained that Serbia residents were traveling to the eastern Bosnian town, located not far from the Serbian border, to participate in the election.
"It has been taking place for several years…and no one has [been able] to help prevent it. People from Serbia who in most cases have nothing to do with Srebrenica come in an organized manner. They are greeted by teams at the border crossing and taken to the polls,” Sadik Ahmetovic told RFE/RL.
On election day, many cars with Serbian license plates could be seen in Srebrenica.
The elections were originally slated for October 4. But the government’s delay in adopting a national budget, including funding for the elections, led to the postponement.
The ethnically divided southern city of Mostar will hold elections separately on December 20.
Those long-delayed elections will be the first in Mostar in 12 years and come after Bosnia’s main Bosniak and Croat parties in June reached a last-minute agreement on a new statute for the city.
Mostar has not held municipal polls since 2008 because of the authorities' failure to enforce a 2010 ruling by Bosnia's Constitutional Court that said the city's power-sharing structure was unconstitutional and needed reform.