Ruling Coalition Demands End To Recount Of Ballots Cast For Republika Srpska President

By RFE/RL's Balkan Service

Supporters of the ruling coalition in Republika Srpska, one of two entities in Bosnia-Herzegovina, protested on October 25 in Banja Luka to demand that electoral authorities end a recount of ballots for president cast earlier this month in the general election.

Milorad Dodik, the de facto leader of Bosnian Serbs and president of the largest party in Republika Srpska, the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD), led the rally, which police said drew an estimated 30,000 people.

The protesters carried photos of Dodik and waved flags of the SNSD party, accusing the country’s Central Election Commission (CEC) of attempting to subvert the will of Serbs to choose him as their leader.

In an address to the rally, Dodik pledged to fight for Serbs’ right to “choose how we want to live” and accused Western and non-Serb Bosnian politicians of “hating” and “trying to erase” Republika Srpska.

"We will not give up our freedom to choose and be chosen,” said Dodik, whose party opposed the recount. “I strongly believe in the idea of an independent Republika Srpska.”

The protest was prompted by the decision of the CEC to recount the ballots cast during the general election on October 2 for the president and vice presidents of Republika Srpska.

Dodik, who is still the member of the Bosnian tripartite presidency, ran for president of the Serb entity against his counterpart from the Party of Democratic Progress, Jelena Trivic, a member of the Republika Srpska parliament and a university professor of economics.

The CEC launched the recount because of questions about the integrity of the electoral process amid suspicions of electoral fraud that in some cases are backed by video evidence.

State prosecutors and police officers have overseen the recount, which is taking place in Sarajevo, drawing objections from Dodik, who said the electoral process should be returned to Republika Srpska and that ballots should never again be counted in Sarajevo.

People from all over Republika Srpska took part in the protest, which organizers dubbed Homeland Calls. Participants gathered in a city park and made the 10-minute walk to the main town square, where Dodik and other party leaders addressed them.

Members of the opposition have already held two protest marches on the same route to raise their concerns over electoral fraud and express their backing for the recount.

They also pressed for criminal charges against multiple people, including Dodik, who has ruled practically unchallenged for years despite being sanctioned by the West for advocating the separation of Republika Srpska from the rest of Bosnia.

The main opposition parties -- the Party of Democratic Progress, the Serbian Democratic Party, and List For Justice and Order -- believe that Trivic won. She declared victory on election night, but so did Dodik.

Unofficial results published later showed that he held an advantage of around 30,000 ballots over his opponent.

The CEC published the preliminary election results for all contests except for president of Republika Srpska on October 22.

With reporting by AP