Opposition parties in Bosnia’s Serb entity have formally called for a recount of ballots cast over the weekend during general elections, after accusing longtime Serb leader Milorad Dodik of fraud.
The vote held in Republika Srpska (RS) should be annulled due to the discovery of “hundreds of irregularities,” said Branislav Borenovic, the leader of the conservative PDP party, outside the Central Election Commission’s headquarters in Sarajevo on Wednesday.
With the vast majority of votes counted, Dodik appeared on the verge of clinching another term as the president of RS.
Dodik received 48 percent of the vote, while his challenger Jelena Trivic secured 43 percent, with more than 95 percent of polling stations accounted for. A total of 617,000 citizens participated.
After the polls closed on Sunday, Trivic claimed victory in the race, saying she enjoyed a sizeable lead that Dodik would be unable to overcome.
But just hours later, Dodik said the preliminary results had him leading the contest, sparking accusations of fraud from the opposition.
“I will not recognise the theft of the people’s will,” Trivic told reporters, with her party saying more than 65,000 votes had been “contaminated” by irregularities.
In many polling stations, for example, opposition monitors were driven out by thugs before the counting was completed.
Result lists emerged in many polling stations, according to which a conspicuously large number of votes were cast for unknown candidates and not a single vote for Trivic.
“We will not give up until the truth emerges and justice prevails,” Borenovic said.
The opposition SDS party has also called for a recount.
Dodik has batted away the accusations, while saying a recount was “unrealistic”.
“Our victory is beyond reproach,” Dodik said on Wednesday.
Opposition representatives have called for protests to be held on Thursday in the city of Banja Luka.
Dodik has dominated politics in the Serb part of the country for two decades. For years, he has been stoking tensions with his frequent calls for Bosnia’s Serbs to separate even further from the country’s central institutions, earning him new sanctions from the United States in January.
Trivic, a 39-year-old professor of economics, sought to offer an alternative to Dodik by running on an anti-corruption ticket.
The election for the presidency of the RS was one of a dizzying number of contests held over the weekend that saw a range of candidates run for posts in the Serb entity and Bosnia’s Bosniak-Croat federation.
The Balkan state has been governed by a complicated administrative system created by the 1995 Dayton Agreement that succeeded in ending the conflict in the 1990s, but largely failed in providing a framework for the country’s political development.
In the war’s wake, ethnic political parties have long exploited the country’s divisions in a bid to maintain power.
The weekend’s contests saw the three established ethnic parties secure major wins.
The lone exception was the defeat of Bakir Izetbegovic, a two-time member of the country’s tripartite president who also leads the main Bosniak party – the SDA.
Izetbegovic was defeated by another professor, Denis Becirovic, in a double-digit landslide win.