Bosnian Nationalist Hardliners Lose Local Ballot in Big Cities


Long dominant nationalists in Bosnia-Herzegovina lost control of the country’s two biggest cities in local ballots Sunday, signaling a potential political shift two years before general elections.

The biggest upset came for the Bosnian Serb nationalist leader Milorad Dodik, whose Alliance of Independent Social Democrats lost the mayorship to the liberal opposition in Banja Luka, the capital of the Serb-run half of Bosnia. The country has been split since the 1992-95 war into the Republika Srpska entity for ethnic Serbs and another entity for Bosnia’s Muslims and Croats.

An alliance of four moderate groups defeated the Muslim Party of Democratic Action for control of of of the nine municipalities comprising Sarajevo, the nation’s nominal capital.

Bosnian Nationalist Hardliners Lose Local Ballot in Big Cities

“I’m sad that we lost Banja Luka,” said Dodik, whose party held power in the biggest Serb city in Bosnia for 22 years. “We respect the choice of voters, but I think they made a mistake.”

Dodik has called for a full split of Bosnia along ethnic lines. His party still prevailed in 41 municipalities, one more than in the previous local elections.

The vote for 143 municipalities and local assemblies across Bosnia was held amid health restrictions due to rising Covid-19 cases, with half of the 3.2 million voters taking part, down from 54% four years ago.

Often dysfunctional and with a complex power-sharing system between the main ethnic groups, Bosnia’s last general elections were in 2018, and it took it 13 months to form a government after that ballot.

©2020 Bloomberg L.P.

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