Thursday 17 August 2017

A divided Bosnia votes amid warning of break-up

Maja Zuvela in Sarajevo

THE BOSNIAN prime minister yesterday warned that the country is on the verge of breaking up.

As voters in the ethnically divided country went to the polls, Milorad Dodik, the Bosnian Serb leader, said the country faces possible dissolution if rival politicians cannot work together .

Since the last vote in 2006, mistrust has deepened between nationalist Croat, Serb and Muslim leaders, and political divisions have widened between the country's two regions, the Muslim-Croat federation and the Serb Republic.

"Either we will be able to reach a compromise and some balance or we will have to go for another option and that is to separate in peace, live next to each other and develop civilised relations," the prime minister said after voting in his native town of Laktasi.

Since the 1992-95 war that killed about 100,000 people, Bosnia has held five general elections but has lagged in political and economic reforms and remains near the back of the queue of Western Balkan nations aspiring to EU entry.

More than 3.1 million voters were eligible to cast ballots for Serb, Croat and Muslim presidency members and deputies in the central, regional and cantonal parliaments, as well as a new president and vice-president of the Serb Republic.

Preliminary results are expected early today. "I am voting to replace the politicians who made this country stagnate for more than 15 years. It is about time they left," said Emina Sejdic (59) who is unemployed.

The country of nearly 3.9 million people in the heart of the Balkans has forests, coal and rapid rivers that make it the region's sole power exporter.

But the economy, which saw huge growth after the war as aid flowed in, has been slowed in the past few years by burdensome administration, corruption and bickering politicians.

"This is the most important post-war election. We are at a crossroads and we must choose whether we want progress or to continue going recklessly into a demise," said Bakir Izetbegovic, a candidate for the presidency's Muslim seat from the largest Muslim Party of Democratic Action.

Independence

After the International Court of Justice ruled in July that Kosovo's declaration of independence from Serbia was legal, Dodik started campaigning that Bosnian Serbs should have the same right to secede.

Bosnian Croat nationalist leader Dragan Covic has also based his campaign on calls for a separate Croat entity within Bosnia. "It is important that we go ahead with constitutional changes, right after the election," he said in Mostar.

Bosnian Muslims, the largest ethnic group in the Balkan country, dismiss such talk and say moves towards separatism would lead to a new war.

Irish Independent

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