Bosnia: Recount confirms pro-Russia Serb leader won election

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Bosnian Serb leader and member of the Bosnian Presidency Milorad Dodik waves with three fingers to the crowd of thousands who gathered to support the “people’s rally for the defense of Republika Srpska” protest in Banja Luka, Bosnia, Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2022. Tens of thousands of people rallied in Bosnia Tuesday to demand from electoral authorities to end a recount of ballots cast in one of the races in the country’s Oct. 2 general election and confirm a staunchly pro-Russian politician as the president of its Serb-run part.(AP Photo/Armin Durgut)

SARAJEVO, Bosnia-Herzegovina (AP) — An election recount confirmed a staunchly pro-Russia Bosnian Serb leader’s victory over an opposition challenger who accused him of vote-rigging in the contest for the presidency of Bosnia’s Serb-run part.

Bosnia’s top electoral body announced Thursday the recount showed the contested Oct 2. election was won by Bosnian Serb hardliner Milorad Dodik. The Central Election Commission said the repeated count revealed numerous irregularities it had notified judicial authorities about but that none were on a level that would have changed the outcome of the vote.

The election included races for all levels of government in the Balkan country’s Serb-dominated and Bosniak-Croat parts, as well as for the joint central institutions that link the two.

Dodik declared victory shortly after polling stations closed, but his main contender, Jelena Trivic, insisted the vote was rigged and claimed she was the winner.

Dodik has been practically unchallenged as Bosnia’s top Serb leader for over a decade despite being sanctioned by the West for corruption. He advocates the separation of Bosnia’s Serb-run part, Republika Srpska, from the rest of the country and having it become part of neighbouring Serbia.

He used the election campaign to champion his secessionist agenda and his close ties with Russia. In September, he traveled to Moscow to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and secure his explicit endorsement.

Dodik’s increasing anti-Western rhetoric has raised fears in Europe and the United States that the Kremlin might use him to create further instability in volatile Bosnia to avert some attention from its war in Ukraine.

Separatist ambitions among ethnic Serbs sparked Bosnia’s devastating 1992-95 war, which killed more than 100,000 people, displaced millions and shattered the country for years to come. A U.S.-brokered peace agreement that ended the war created the Serb and Bosniak-Croat entities, tied loosely by joint, multi-ethnic institutions.

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