Bosnia votes for mayors at time of renewed tensions
Bosnia votes for new mayors on Sunday at a time of renewed tensions between communities in the fragile Balkan country, especially between Muslims and Bosnian Serbs.
Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina: Bosnia votes for new mayors on Sunday at a time of renewed tensions between communities in the fragile Balkan country, especially between Muslims and Bosnian Serbs.
Some 3.2 million voters will cast ballots in 140 municipalities and are largely expected to vote along ethnic lines.
The northwestern town of Velika Kladusa is likely to be led from Monday by war criminal Fikret Abdic, 77, who was convicted by a Croatian court in 2002.
During Bosnia`s 1990s inter-ethnic war, this Bosnian Muslim, a powerful local warlord, sided with the Serbs against Muslim forces loyal to Sarajevo and proclaimed an "Autonomous Province of Western Bosnia".
He was released in 2012 after serving two-thirds of a 15-year jail sentence.
In the eastern town of Srebrenica, known for the massacre of 8,000 Muslim men and boys by Bosnian Serb forces in 1995, a Serb is widely tipped to become mayor for the first time since 1999.
Today the town is a microcosm of Bosnia, with Muslims and Serbs living side by side but by no means together -- still distrustful more than two decades after the war that claimed 100,000 lives and displaced two million people.
The town`s elections will be a political confrontation between the two communities, although both candidates have vowed to work for the benefit of all citizens.
This year tensions in Bosnia are particularly strong, intensified by the decision of its Serbs at a referendum last weekend to continue celebrating their "national holiday" -- despite Sarajevo authorities ruling the holiday and the vote illegal.The Dayton peace accords that ended the war in 1995 split Bosnia into two semi-independent entities -- the Serb-run Republika Srpska (RS) and a Muslim-Croat federation -- linked by weak central institutions.
The political leaders on both sides, Milorad Dodik in the RS and Muslim Bakir Izetbegovic, have led aggressive campaigns ahead of Sunday`s vote using nationalist rhetoric.
In Banka Luka, capital of the RS, the mayoral candidate for Dodik`s SNSD party is threatened by a rival Serb. A defeat would weaken the SNSD, which has led the city for 19 years.
In a country where 50 percent of people are Muslims and almost all follow a moderate form of the religion, there is for the first time a candidate who wears the face-covering niqab veil, Indira Sinanovic.
Representing a small party, she is not expected to become a councillor in the central Bosnian town of Zavidovici.
Polling stations open at 0500 GMT and close at 1700 GMT. The first results are expected late Sunday.