October 6, 2018 / 11:44 PM / a year ago

Nationalist Serb, Bosniak leaders claim victory in Bosnia's vote

SARAJEVO (Reuters) - Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik proclaimed victory in Bosnia’s presidential election on Sunday, as did the candidate of the largest Muslim Bosniak party.

A man casts his ballot during presidential and parliamentary elections at a polling centre in a school in Crkvice near Zenica, Bosnia and Herzegovina October 7, 2018. REUTERS/Dado Ruvic

“I proclaim victory,” Dodik said at a news conference, adding that he won 56 percent of the vote for the Serb seat in the country’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency.

Sefik Dzaferovic, the candidate of the Muslim Bosniak largest SDA party, also said he won the Bosniak seat in the body, with 40 percent of vote.

“I am leading and have won the seat in Bosnia’s presidency,” Dzaferovic said at a news conference.

Bosnians went to the polls to decide whether their country will pursue a path towards European Union membership and NATO integration or sink deeper into ethnic strife and further fragmentation.

More than two decades after a war in which 100,000 died, leading Serb, Croat and Muslim Bosniak parties campaigned on nationalist tickets, reviving wartime pledges in programmes that failed to offer any clear economic or political visions.

About 3.35 million registered voters were due to take part in the presidential and parliamentary elections, choosing members of Bosnia’s tripartite inter-ethnic presidency, consisting of a Bosniak, a Croat and a Serb, and lawmakers for parliament’s lower house.

They will also select leaders and assemblies of its two autonomous regions - the Serb Republic and the Bosniak-Croat Federation, and of the Federation’s 10 cantons.

Pro-Russian Dodik has repeatedly advocated secession of the Serb Republic and integration with Serbia and analysts say that he will try to weaken Bosnia as the presidency member.

Zeljko Komsic, a moderate Croat who already served two terms in the presidency, said he was leading over nationalist Dragan Covic from the largest Croat HDZ party.

Covic said he has won the majority of Croat votes and that Komsic could profit only thanks to Bosniak votes, the reason why they had demanded the creation of new ethnically-based election units where Croats would vote only for their ethnic kin.

“Such election results may cause an unprecedented crisis in Bosnia-Herzegovina,” Covic said in the southern town of Mostar.

The election commission said that turnout by 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) was 53.3 percent. The commission will announce first preliminary results of the presidential vote around midnight (2200 GMT). The results of the parliamentary vote will be published on Monday.

Writing by Daria Sito-Sucic; Editing by Marguerita Choy

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