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U.S. Raises Concerns About Bosnian Elections; Other Reaction Mixed

Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik
Bosnian Serb leader Milorad Dodik

The United States has expressed some concern about what it called "shortcomings" in Bosnia's election process even as it said it remains "committed to a stable and prosperous Bosnia and Herzegovina."

In a statement late on October 8 after the results of the October 7 election showed a Serb nationalist who has advocated splitting up Bosnia won the Serb seat on its three-member presidency, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the United States "shares concerns about the electoral process, as expressed by the OSCE [Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe] election observer mission, international observation teams, and local [non-governmental organizations]."

"These include concerns over accuracy of voter registration polls, impartiality of election observers, equitable access to media, and misuse of public resources," she said.

"Such concerns are at odds with Bosnian authorities' stated commitment to a fully fair and transparent election, and we encourage Bosnian institutions to address shortcomings raised by the OSCE observers."

"We expect all stakeholders and citizens to pursue any grievances through established legal channels," Nauert said, calling on victors to be "magnanimous" and losers to be "gracious in defeat."

It was not clear what specifically was behind the concerns raised by Nauert. The AP news agency reported that opponents of Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader who won the Serb presidential seat, are seeking a recount of the vote over alleged "numerous discrepancies."

AP reported that Mladen Ivanic, the opposition candidate for the post, said drastic differences seen in results in various areas of the Serb Republic, or Republika Srpska, a Serbian mini-state within Bosnia, were "impossible."

Though Washington said its concerns were also shared by the OSCE, the European agency was mostly positive about the election outcome in its public comments.

'No Time To Waste'

OSCE Secretary-General Thomas Greminger said on Twitter that Bosnian "citizens expressed their will in peaceful and democratic elections. Now political leadership must ensure results are implemented through formation of legislative and executive authorities at all levels."

Greminger said that there is "No time to waste. Essential to act beyond party lines," adding that "OSCE support continues."

The Reuters news agency reported that international election monitors said the vote was generally orderly despite some reported allegations of fraud and misconduct, which monitors said should be investigated.

Given the potential for divisions with the elevation of Dodik, a pro-Russian Serb who told Russia's Izvestia newspaper after his election that he will fight any bid by Bosnia to join NATO, the European Union called on the newly elected leaders to work for unity.

"We expect all political leaders to engage in the formation of the governments at all levels, by working constructively together," EU foreign policy chief Federica Mogherini and EU Enlargement Commissioner Johannes Hahn said in a joint statement.

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

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

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.

With reporting by AP, dpa, and Reuters
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