Opposition In Bosnia's Republika Srpska Presses For Vote Recount Alleging Voter Fraud


Representatives of the opposition in Republika Srpska and their supporters gathered on October 6 in Banja Luka to protest the results of the election for president of Republika Srpska on October 2 and to press their demand for a recount.

The central streets of Banja Luka were blocked by the protest march, which police said drew about 2,500 people.

Organizers said the turnout was more than 30,000 people, who marched through Banja Luka without incident before gathering on the town's main square.

"Mile, thief!" and "Mile, go away!" they chanted in a reference to longtime nationalist leader Milorad Dodik.

The Party of Democratic Progress (PDP), the Serbian Democratic Party (SDS), and the List for Justice and Order are demanding a recount of votes for president amid reports of dozens of election irregularities.

The opposition parties in Republika Srpska, one of two entities of Bosnia-Herzegovina, maintain the candidate they backed, Jelena Trivic (PDP), defeated Dodik.

"It is not me who was robbed, it is the popular will, it is the people of Republika Srpska, and I will never recognize that," Trivic -- a 39-year-old professor of economics -- told the crowd.

"They rob the people every day of the year, but on [election] day the people were robbed in a brutal and mafia-style way," she added.

According to the results counted so far by the Central Election Commission, Dodik of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) won about 281,000 votes. Trivic won around 252,000 votes, or around 30,000 fewer votes.

Dodik, who has denied the election fraud allegations, has been the most powerful politician in Republika Srpska for years. He has close relations with Russian President Vladimir Putin, while the United States and Britain have sanctioned him for allegedly trying to undermine peace and stability in the country.

The opposition and Trivic said the protesters who marched on October 6 were "defending the constitutional order of the Republika Srpska."

Milan Radovic, deputy president of the SDS, said the protests "defend the will of the people and the votes. If you keep pushing, Banja Luka will be full of people, so let's show who won the elections."

Trivic and the opposition parties that support her claim that votes were stolen on election night in the cities of Prijedor, Zvornik, and Doboj.

"We want to open those famous bags and reveal the real truth," said Branislav Borenovic, leader of the PDP.

A coalition of civil organizations that monitored the elections recorded 83 serious election irregularities throughout Bosnia-Herzegovina during the vote.

These include violations of the voting process, violations of rules pertaining to assistance in voting, and pressure on voters.

The Prosecutor-General's Office and the State Investigation and Protection Agency (SIPA) received 27 reports from citizens.

The election for the Republika Srpska presidency was one of several contests held on October 2 that saw a range of candidates run for posts in the Balkan country's two entities.

Bosnia-Herzegovina has been governed by an administrative system created by the Dayton peace accords in 1995 that ended three years of war in the former Yugoslav republic marked by ethnic cleansing and brutality.

With reporting by AFP and AP