The candidate of Bosnian Serb parties says he has won a repeat of local elections in the town of Srebrenica despite a boycott of the vote by Bosnian Muslims.
Mladen Grujicic declared victory in his mayoral reelection bid in the eastern town that was the scene of the Bosnian war’s worst atrocity when 8,000 Muslim men and boys were killed by Serb forces in July 1995.
Elections in Srebrenica and Doboj, in the north of the country, were repeated after numerous irregularities had been reported in the November 2020 local elections, dominated by Bosnian Serbs.
Grujicic told RFE/RL that “even if there had been no boycott by Bosniak (Bosnian Muslim) parties,” the difference in the number of votes in his favor “would have been large” and he would have won reelection anyway.
Grujicic won the previous election in 2016, becoming the first Bosnian Serb to become mayor of Srebrenica since 1999.
In Doboj, where Bosnian Serbs make up about 70 percent of the population, incumbent Boris Jerinic of the Alliance of Independent Social Democrats (SNSD) also declared a “convincing” victory.
The SNSD said Jerinic won almost 70 percent of the vote.
In a news conference at midnight, Bosnia’s Central Election Commission confirmed Grujicic and Jerinic’s victories.
The turnout was almost 43 percent in Srebrenica and more than 55 percent in Doboj, the election commission announced.
The results of the February 21 repeat elections were almost certain to be challenged and exacerbate already high political tensions in the area.
Bosnian Muslims vowed to boycott the rerun in Srebrenica because, they said, officials haven’t done enough to rectify the problems that marred first elections in November 2020 such as multiple voting and the discovery of caches of pre-marked ballots before voting began.
Moreover, the Bosniak parties complained, officials weren’t including mail-in voters in the new elections.
Bosnia comprises two entities, the Muslim and Croat federation and the Serb-dominated Republika Srpska.
Srebrenica is regarded by some as a potential flashpoint for ethnic tensions because of the massacre, the worst mass killing in post-World War II Europe.
The massacre was labeled as genocide by international courts, but Serbian and Bosnian Serb officials refuse to accept that wording.
The episode came at the end of the 1992-95 Bosnian War pitting the Serbs against Bosniaks and Croats that claimed some 100,000 lives.
The country continues to struggle domestically and internationally under an ethnically based deal — known as the Dayton Agreement — that ended fighting among the sides.