BANJA LUKA, Bosnia (Reuters) – Serb opposition parties protested on Wednesday against the results of last month’s presidential vote in Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic, accusing the state election commission of turning a blind eye to evidence that the vote was rigged.
Bosnia held presidential and parliamentary elections on Oct. 2 as well as a vote for the Serb Republic president and vice-president. Final results verified on Wednesday showed that veteran Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik won a tight presidential race with main rival Jelena Trivic.
Opposition parties had requested a recount of ballots, alleging widespread fraud at the polling stations, and staged two protests last month drawing thousands in the region’s de facto capital Banja Luka. They also filed court complaints requesting that the vote be repeated.
On Wednesday, the court’s appeal chamber dismissed all complaints and the election commission verified the final results, moves denounced by opposition leaders who said they were carried out under political pressure.
“Jelena Trivic was brutally stolen from,” said Milan Radovic, a member of the Serb Democratic Party (SDS). “We have to fight (to ensure) that such a brutal theft verified by an … institution should not happen ever again.”
Dodik’s hardline Serb nationalism and close ties with Russia have raised concern that Bosnia might fracture again along ethnic lines, a generation after its devastating 1990s war, raising concern among European Union and NATO peace overseers.
Hundreds of opposition supporters who gathered in front of the building accommodating the Serb Republic’s official broadcaster RTRS in Banja Luka chanted “Mile Thief” – using Dodik’s nickname – and “Thieves!”
The demonstrators said RTRS has been a source of fake news aimed at the opposition leaders, serving exclusively the interests of Dodik and his ruling SNSD party.
“We say enough to this factory of evil and hatred which it has been producing over the decades,” said Djordje Vucinic, a speaker from the southern town of Trebinje.
Last week, Dodik and his coalition partners gathered tens of thousands of supporters in Banja Luka’s main square where he declared victory even though the vote recount was still ongoing.
The results of the Oct. 2 elections underlined the continued dominance of nationalists over reformists at various levels of governance in Bosnia, which is comprised of a Bosniak-Croat federation along with the Serb Republic.
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