© Reuters. A woman casts her vote during presidential and parliamentary elections at a polling station at a school in Livno, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Oct. 2, 2022. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic
By Daria Sito-Sucic
SARAJEVO (Reuters) – Bosniaks voted Sunday to elect the country’s new collective presidency and legislators at the national, regional and local levels, choosing between long-rooted nationalist parties and reformists focused on the economy.
Nearly 3.4 million people are eligible to vote in a country experiencing its worst political crisis since the end of the war in the 1990s, prompted by the separatist policies of Serbian leaders and the threat of blockades by Bosnian Croats.
Polling stations close at 7pm (1700 GMT), and the first official results are expected at midnight. But political parties are expected to come out with their own results around 10 p.m.
Election authorities reported a 15% turnout at 11 a.m. (0900 GMT), a 3% increase from the last vote in 2018.
Voting at one polling station was suspended and five officials were detained after independent observers reported ballot irregularities, news portal Klix reported.
Bosnia is made up of two autonomous regions, the Serbian-dominated Republic of Serbia and the Federation shared by Bosniaks, or Bosnian Muslims, and Croats, linked by a weak central government. The Federation is further divided into 10 cantons. There is also the neutral neighborhood of Brcko to the north.
Election campaigns by ruling ethnic parties have been dominated by nationalist rhetoric, which focused more on issues of protecting national interests and criticizing opponents than on issues of jobs and rising inflation.
“Honestly, I don’t have high expectations,” Nemanja Ratkovac said, casting his vote in Banja Luka, the de facto capital of the Serbian Republic. “I think neither (candidates) have done much in this election campaign, other than (speak) to each other.”
NATIONALISTS REMAIN DOMINANT
A lack of reliable polls has made it difficult to predict the outcome of the vote, but many analysts believe that nationalist parties will remain dominant and that the biggest change may come in the Bosnian camp, which is the largest and most politically diverse camp. is.
The leader of the largest Party of Democratic Action (SDA), Bakir Izetbegovic, is running for the role of Bosnian president in what is seen as a tight race with Denis Becirovic of the anti-nationalist Social Democratic Party (SDP), whose bid is supported by 11 civilian-oriented opposition parties.
Observers believe Serbian and Croatian nationalist parties will remain in power, but some polls have suggested separatist pro-Russian leader Milorad Dodik, who is running for the role of President of the Serbian Republic, faces stiff competition from opposition economist Jelena Trivic.
“Those who win the elections will also be accountable to the people for finding the best possible solutions and answers to the challenges of the world and Europe, which will be anything but easy,” Dodik, who boasts of his close ties to the Russian President Vladimir Putin , said after casting his vote .
Croatian parties have warned they could block the formation of a government after the vote if moderate Zeljko Komsic wins the post of Croatian president.
They say his victory would be based on a majority vote of Bosniaks, and they will not consider him the legitimate Croatian representative.
“I think after 30 years it should finally be better for the people all over Bosnia,” Milenko Crnjak said, after voting in the western city of Livno.
“We have so much potential…but young people leave and the old stay and die.”