have voted down a bid to put a Serb mayor in control of Srebrenica for the first time since the massacre of 8,000 Muslims in the town by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995.
Once predominantly Muslim, Srebrenica was the site of the worst mass killing on European soil since World War Two, when Bosnian Serb forces killed Muslim men and boys near the end of the country’s 1992-95 war.
Barely 15 percent of the town’s 27,600 pre-war Muslim residents, known as Bosniaks, have returned, leaving Serbs the majority. Many of the others are scattered across Bosnia and around the world.
In previous years, Bosnia’s international peace overseers intervened to allow those Bosniaks who had not returned and were not registered in Srebrenica to vote, but they refrained from doing so this year in a more hands-off approach.
A Bosnian Serb party, which disputes a United Nations ruling that the Srebrenica killings constituted genocide, launched a bid to win the post of mayor in the local election on October 7.
Many Bosniaks saw the prospect of a Serb mayor taking control as a threat to their efforts to keep the memory of the crime alive and to the status of a memorial complex where more than 5,600 victims of the massacres are interred.
Camil Durakovic, the Bosniak candidate, led the drive to register some 2,000 absent voters, and a final vote count at the weekend showed him to be the victor.
“If it wasn’t for this registration of voters, I would have never won,” Durakovic told Reuters. “From today, I’ll be the mayor of all citizens of Srebrenica.”
A coalition of Serb parties has complained of irregularities and urged a partial repeat of the vote.
“The decision as to who will run the town for the next four years was brought by people who don’t live there,” said Rajko Vasic, a senior member of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats led by Milorad Dodik, leader of Bosnia’s autonomous Serb Republic.
Reporting By Daria Sito-Sucic and Gordana Katana, Editing by Matt Robinson and Charlotte Cooper