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Bosnia-Herzegovina elects parliaments and presidents

Voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday were going to the polls in elections for the country's highly complex, multi-ethnic administration.

Sarajevo, 2 October 2022 (dpa/MIA) — Voters in Bosnia-Herzegovina on Sunday were going to the polls in elections for the country’s highly complex, multi-ethnic administration.

Some 3.3 million citizens are being called on to elect the three-member head of state, the federal parliament and the parliaments in the two largely autonomous parts of the country.

The small Balkan country is plagued by friction between its ethnic groups. Tensions are often fanned by ethnic nationalists who aspire to retain their grip on power and the volatile status quo.

About half of the population are Muslim Bosniaks, one-third Orthodox Serbs and about 15% Catholic Croats.

This election comes as the Republika Srpska, which is the Serbian part of Bosnia-Herzegovina, is intensifying efforts to secede from the federal republic. The Serb nationalists enjoy the support of Russia, Serbia and Hungary.

The West sees the long-serving and strongly pro-Moscow Milorad Dodik as the most destructive player in Bosnian politics. The powerful Bosnian Serb secessionist is running for the presidency of the Republika Srpska.

Croat nationalists have also been working to weaken Bosnian state institutions as a whole.

The ability of non-nationalist parties to make gains will be closely watched.

The main focus is on the election for Bosnia’s tripartite presidency, which is the country’s top executive and internationally representative body.

The office is shared by one Bosniak, one Serb and one Croat. The term is four years.

The system with exaggerated checks and balances was imposed in 1995 as part of the US-brokered Dayton peace agreement, which put an end to the Bosnian War – but also left ethnic leaders with the authority to stop reforms and keep power in the hands of the political elite.

More than a quarter-century after the war ended, hatred and mistrust persist.

The country remains divided between two largely autonomous regions: the Republika Srpska (RS) and the Federation of Bosnia and Herzegovina (FBiH), which is shared by Bosniaks and Croats.

The feuding has hobbled Bosnia’s candidacy to become a member of the European Union. Bosnia applied in 2016 but an EU assessment said entrenched structural problems, including weak rule of law, was holding the country back.

Polling stations close at 7 pm (1700 GMT). Initial results are not expected before midnight.

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