Nationalists from rival ethnic groups claimed victory in Bosnian elections on Monday, but it seemed likely that their power would be curtailed by an electorate frustrated at economic stagnation and corruption, the Guardian’s Julian Borger reports from Banja Luka:
Milorad Dodik, a secessionist with strong ties to Moscow, was leading by two percentage points with about 80% of the vote counted in the race for the presidency of the Serb half of the country, the Republika Srpska (RS), which he has long vowed to lead to independence. He said his policy would be for the RS to function “less and less an entity and more a state”.
Even if Dodik manages to hold on that lead, he could find it harder to run a government in the main Serb town of Banja Luka. Although his party emerged as the biggest single block in the RS assembly, it now controls less than half the seats, meaning opposition parties may be able to form a ruling coalition if they were able to overcome their differences.
Dodik’s ally, Zeljka Cvijanovic, was facing defeat by a more moderate candidate, Mladen Ivanic, in the vote for the Serb seat on the Bosnian state presidency, in which Serbs, Croats and Muslims, known as Bosniaks, share power. Ivanic is seen as potentially a more cooperative partner in the tripartite presidency, which could help strengthen Bosnia’s weak central institutions.
“Ruling majorities got less votes than the opposition on all levels. Bosnia seems to have voted for change, the question is whether the post-election coalition negotiations will respect the will of the people for change,” said Reuf Bajrovic, the head of the Emerging Democracies Institute.