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Dodik Eyes Victory in Bosnian Serb Entity’s Presidential Race

epa10213561 A car drives past a billboard depicting Milorad Dodik a candidate for the President of Republika Srpska entity of Bosnia and Herzegovina in Belgrade, Serbia, 29 September 2022. More than three million Bosnian citizens are expected to vote in the country's general elections on 02 October. 90 political parties and 10 candidates for the three members of the Bosnian presidency were registered. EPA-EFE/ANDREJ CUKIC
Bosnian Serb strongman Milorad Dodik looks on course to become president of the country's Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska – though his main challenger has cried foul.

After counting almost 82 per cent of the votes cast for the race to become president of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated entity, Republika Srpska, Bosnia’s Central Electoral Commission, CEC, said the Bosnian Serb political leader and president of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats, SNSD, Milorad Dodik, was heading towards a third mandate in the post. 

According to CEC data, Dodik was in the lead with 48 per cent of the votes. His main opponent, Jelena Trivic, of the Party of Democratic Progress, PDP, won some 42 per cent. 

Both claimed victory on Sunday night.

After the CEC published the preliminary results for the Republika Srpska presidential race, the PDP called a press conference on Monday, claiming that Dodik only “won by election fraud.” “We won’t give up. Everything we said last night … is correct. The difference was over 10,000 votes,” Branislav Borenovic, president of PDP, told the media.

“We will examine everything in detail and based on that, there is a serious reason to cancel the elections for the president of the Republika Sprska in a large number of polling stations and cities,” he added.

Trivic, a 39-year-old former professor, and widely seen as just as hardline as Dodik, on Sunday thanked those who voted for her. 

Dodik was more careful in claiming victory, but did so two hours after midnight. “These are the confirmed results from local electoral boards,” Dodik said, congratulating the Serbian member of the state presidency on her victory, his ally, Zeljka Cvijanovic. 

Dodik and his SNSD did, however, lose support compared to the 2018 elections.  Cvijanovic won some 90,000 votes less than Dodik did for the same post. Compared to 2014, when Dodik won almost 304.000 votes, in this year’s election he won close to 243.000 votes so far. Many see the reason for this decline in his friendship with Croatian President Zoran Milanovic, and growing displeasure with he current state of life.

The CEC has confirmed the results for Bosnia’s collective head of state. Beside Cvijanovic, the new-old member of presidency will be the disputed Croat Zeljko Komsic, winning his fourth term. The Bosniak post will be filled by a newcomer, Denis Becirovic, an opposition candidate backed by a coalition of 11 parties. 

Bakir Izetbegovic, leader of the main Bosniak party, the Party of Democratic Action, SDA, who hoped for a third mandate in the presidency, lost the race to Becirovic. 

“How can you expect to win when 11 parties are against you? If there were nine of them, I could easily win, but with 11 I couldn’t,” Izetbegovic said, admitting defeat.

However, while Izetbegovic lost, his SDA party won the biggest number of votes for the state-level parliament, with almost 25 per cent.Local analysts think that voters are punishing Izetbegovic because of his open protection of corrupted politicians, including Federation entity PM, Fadil Novalic, who is being trialled for corruption and abuse of position. The years of growing discontent among Bosniak population is also one of the reasons why Izetbegovic was not voted in position. Some also think that a significant portion of Bosniaks has voted for Komsic, taking votes intended for Izetbegovic. 

At Sunday’s election, Bosnians cast ballots for a new state parliament, assemblies in the two entities, ten cantonal assemblies within the Federation and the three-member state presidency.

Three seats were up for election on the state presidency, 42 for the state parliament, 98 for the assembly of the Federation entity, 83 for the assembly of Republika Srpska and three for the president and vice-presidents of Republika Srpska.

Some 3.3 million voters, slightly more than the official number of population, were eligible to vote in the 14th elections since 1996, when the first post-war elections were held. 

According to the CEC, only 50 per cent of Bosnians voted in the 5,904 polling stations.