Partial Bosnian vote count suggests divided presidency

Bakir Izetbegovic Bakir Izetbegovic is considered a moderate

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Partial election results indicate that Bosnia's tripartite presidency could remain divided over the country's future.

With half of the votes counted, the Croat and Muslim seats of the presidency look to go to supporters of a unified Bosnia, the electoral commission said.

The leading Serb candidate has been advocating separation from the country.

The complex constitution means voters chose five presidents and 700 MPs.

With 73.8% of votes counted, Bakir Izetbegovic was leading the race for the presidency's Muslim seat, the electoral commission said.

Mr Izetbegovic, who is the son of Bosnia's wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic, is considered to be more moderate than the present Muslim member of the presidency, Haris Silajdzic.

He has called for compromise with the other communities to overcome the deep ethnic divisions that still paralyse the country 15 years after the Bosnian war.

Analysis

The picture from these results is mixed: Bakir Izetbegovic's apparent victory will encourage international observers. He's a more moderate figure than his predecessor, Haris Silajdzic, and has called for co-operation to bridge Bosnia's deep ethnic divisions.

And the Croat-led, multi-ethnic SDP party has done well in the presidential and parliamentary poll: another step towards the unity that so many crave here.

But staunch Serb nationalists have made gains. Both Milorad Dodik and Nebojsa Radmanovic have used inflammatory rhetoric throughout the campaign, with Dodik frequently calling for the Serbs to secede from Bosnia.

Now the election is over, perhaps the nationalism will die down. There will be pressure on all sides for dialogue to form a stable government that can shake Bosnia out of its lethargy and move it towards EU membership.

The candidate leading the race for the Croat seat, incumbent Zeljko Komsic, is also a strong supporter of a unified, multi-ethnic Bosnia.

Serb incumbent Nebojsa Radmanovic in contrast backs the idea of Bosnian Serb secession from the country.

If final results bear out the early returns from polling stations, the presidency might again be split over the unity of the country rather than end the political stalemate that is blocking economic reforms and clouding Bosnia's chances for EU membership.

Some three million people were eligible to elect leaders of the central government and two semi-autonomous regions, the Serb Republic (Republika Srpska) and the Muslim-Croat Federation.

They were also deciding who will take the seats in the central parliament and in the two regional assemblies.

The two separate entities were set up by the 1995 Dayton peace accord, which ended the 1992-95 Bosnian war.

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