Ethnic tensions simmer as Bosnia and Herzegovina head to the polls

Ethnic tensions simmer as Bosnia and Herzegovina head to the polls

Bosnia and Herzegovina voters will go to the polls today to vote in three members of the tripartite Presidency and

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Photo: Radivoje Pavicic/AP

Bosnia and Herzegovina voters will go to the polls today to vote in three members of the tripartite Presidency and 42 MPs in the national parliament. In addition, hundreds of other representatives will be elected within the two main political “entities” of the country—Republika Srpska representing ethnic Serbs; and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina representing ethnic-Croats and Bosnian-Muslims.

A major underlying election issue is the age-old ethnic divisions since the 1992-1995 Bosnian war. A prime example of these divisions are the political positions of two of the most prominent politicians.

Pro-Putin and pro-Russian, Republika Srpska President Milorad Dodik wants greater autonomy for his mini-state—to the point of complete secession—and opposes the country joining NATO or the EU.

Pro-Erdogan and pro-Turkish Bosnian-Muslim Co-President Bakir Izetbegovic, has signalled outright war to any ethnic-Serb attempt at secession or ethnic-Croat attempt at creating a similar mini-state to the ethnic-Serbs.

The results of this election are likely to keep ethnic tensions simmering. However, the increasingly close strongmen relations between Vladimir Putin and Recep Tayyip Erdogan—who held a controversial election rally in Sarajevo this year—could prove an unexpected stumbling block for Dodik’s secessionist aspirations.

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