Nationalist candidates of Bosnia's Croats, Muslims and Serbs were ahead in elections for the country's tripartite presidency, with just over half of the votes counted.

Based on the partial vote count, authorities said Zeljka Cvijanovic, alongside Bakir Izetbegovic and Dragan Covic were out in front in the race for the tripartite state presidency, as Serb, Bosniak, and Croat representatives respectively.

Bosniac leader Izetbegovic, who is the only candidate certain to occupy one of the seats in the three-member presidency for a second term, said it was not yet time to speculate about possible coalitions. 

"Those who are ready will make an almost identical programme about the most essential issues like moving Bosnia and Herzegovina out of a reform standstill, and putting it on the path of EU and NATO integration, put up a determined fight against corruption and crime," Izetbegovic said on Monday.

He added that all candidates were keen to try to revive the ailing economy and create jobs, a key demand of voters in a country with an official unemployment rate at 44 percent and an average monthly salary of $525. 

Nearly 20 years after a devastating war between its Croats, Muslims and Serbs, the country is one of Europe's poorest nations and remains split along its ethnic lines.

Izetbegovic, son of Bosnia's late wartime leader Alija Izetbegovic, won 33.16 percent of the votes, according to results based on almost 77 percent of ballots counted.

Wartime parties surge

His main opponent, local media mogul Fahrudin Radoncic, gathered 26.67 percent, the early results from the electoral commission showed.

Covic, who seeks to split the Bosniac and Croat federation, is ahead in the race for the Croat seat; the two Serb candidates are separated by only about 1,000 votes.

Cvijanovic and Covic were leading the race for the Serb and Croat member of the presidency respectively.

Although less important than the parliament, the results for Bosnia's presidency show the trend that parties that led Bosnia into a war two decades ago could be back in power.

Corruption that has plagued the country since its inception now costs taxpayers about $950m annually, according to non-governmental organisations.

Source: Agencies