Bosnia’s Dodik declared winner in disputed election


Bosnian Serb political leader Milorad Dodik was on Thursday declared the president of Bosnia’s Serb entity, election officials announced, following a recount after the opposition cried foul.

The election for the presidency of the Republika Srpska (RS, the country’s Serb entity), was one of several votes held on October 2 at the central level and in the two entities, the RS and the Muslim-Croat federation, that make up the Balkan country.

Bosnia has been governed by this dysfunctional administrative system created by the 1995 Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the 1990’s conflict, but largely failed in providing a framework for the country’s political development.

The recount “confirmed that the candidate Milorad Dodik representing the Serb people and who was in the lead… and remained so with the greatest number of votes won,” said Suad Arnautovic, chairman of Bosnia’s central election commission.

The final figures for the race were still being compiled, according to officials, who said the opposition had a narrow window to contest their findings.

Shortly after the electoral commission’s announcement, Dodik told reporters, “the interests of the RS” would be his priority.

“I call on all political factors to work for stability and peace, co-operation and understanding. We will need a lot of know-how to be able to understand, all together.. the difficult times that are coming,” he said.

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But one opposition leader, Branislav Borenovic, announced a legal challenge to the electoral commission’s decision.

“To take such a decision is to turn a blind eye to the obvious electoral plundering. If we leave it at that.. it means we are living in a dark age of democracy… and that corruption is the only winner of the elections,” Borenovic was quoted by BNTV television as saying.

Hours ahead of the electoral commission’s announcement of the result, the US embassy in Bosnia issued a barely concealed warning to Dodik.

“Any action taken toward the dissolution of Bosnia-Herzegovina would violate Dayton and carry grave consequences,” the embassy tweeted.

Stoking tensions

A preliminary count following the election had given Dodik victory — with the Kremlin-friendly leader winning 48 percent of the vote compared to 43 percent for opposition candidate Jelena Trivic.

However, on the day after the election, opposition parties accused Dodik and his party of “organised plundering of the elections” and demanded a recount.

Thursday’s announcement comes just days after Dodik rallied thousands of supporters in the RS capital Banja Luka, where the long-time leader of the country’s Serbs remained defiant he would be victorious.

The recount cements Dodik’s third term as RS president after he completed a stint in the tripartite presidency.

For years, Dodik has been stoking tensions with frequent calls for Bosnia’s Serbs to separate even further from the country’s central institutions, earning him fresh sanctions from the United States in January.

Running on an anti-corruption ticket, Dodik’s rival Trivic — a 39-year-old professor of economics — sought to offer an alternative to RS voters, while also trumpeting the Serbs’ desire to maintain autonomy in Bosnia.

October’s elections saw the three established ethnic parties secure major wins.

The lone exception was the defeat of Bakir Izetbegovic, a two-time member of the country’s tripartite presidency who also leads the main Bosniak party — the SDA.

Izetbegovic was clobbered by Denis Becirovic in a double-digit landslide win.


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